The Mobile City Council, on Tuesday, unanimously approved a partnership with Ransom Ministries that would help the city fix its litter problem and provide work for individuals without housing.
The two-month pilot program would pay five men staying in the Waterfront Rescue Mission overnight shelter about $9 per hour to pick up litter throughout the city. If the program is extended, the participants can work toward a full-time job within the public services department of the city.
“I truly believe this will be a win-win for the city and those who take advantage of this program,” Mayor Sandy Stimpson said in a statement, following council approval. “Partnering with an established and proven organization like Ransom Ministries will help us make an immediate impact in people’s lives — providing them with a means of income and potentially opening the door to other services like housing, healthcare and more.”
Matt Armbruster, founder of Ransom Ministries, told councilors during a pre-conference meeting on Tuesday that a steady paycheck would go a long way in helping the men secure other resources, like housing, identification and a checking account.
“The goal is to get them off the street,” he said. “It does a lot of other things besides pick up litter. It puts people back to where they need to be.”
Ransom and the city will review the program following the two-month period from August to September to see if it’s successful.
“I believe wholeheartedly this will work,” Armbruster said.
The “recycling” program, as it’s dubbed, is based on an initiative Armbruster learned about in Indianapolis. Over a four-year period, the city used 45 individuals without housing to pick up litter. Of those 45, 13 found full-time jobs with the city of Indianapolis.
Mobile’s program also fills a gap, as the city’s litter patrol is short four people. Deputy Director of Public Works Shonda Smith said the program was “bigger than litter.”
The department did a job fair featuring individuals without housing and learned that many wanted to work, but didn’t have the proper paperwork, didn’t have access to their social security number and didn’t have a driver’s license or identification.
“We hit a wall,” she said. “How do we get those people on the payroll if they don’t have the funds to acquire the paperwork?”
This initial job picking up litter, Smith said, will allow these men into the system where they can qualify for commercial driver’s licenses, become full-time laborers with benefits, or work other jobs.
“We’ve got to get them in the system,” she said.
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