With a $100,000 grant from Alexion Pharmaceuticals, City Hall and a nonprofit organization will collaborate on a program to help homeless people find permanent employment.
The RESPECT Work program, which will be run by Liberty Community Services, aims to provide short-term employment in the city’s upkeep to 80 people over 16 months, with the goal of helping at least 40 percent of them secure longer-term employment, according to LCS Executive Director John Bradley ’81. The city will provide a van to transport individuals involved in the program, while LCS will hire crew supervisors, pay workers and assist them in finding housing.
“The idea is that people get employed very quickly, which will help them think of themselves again as workers,” Bradley said. “Their presence on our work team would be temporary and really would be the first step in getting back to employment.”
Alexion, a large pharmaceutical company that relocated to the Elm City this year, announced the grant last week. Since moving back to the city, the company has participated in various acts of community giving. Earlier this year, it distributed a $1,000 grant to a different nonprofit every day for 30 days. Alexion also began a Global Day of Service to serve Hill Regional Career High School, said Emily Vlasak, Alexion’s associate director of corporate communications.
Bradley said this program — inspired by a similar model in Albuquerque, New Mexico — will provide displaced people with sustained sources of income to help them get back on their feet. The jobs available will involve cleaning streets and sidewalk in the areas surrounding State Street, Chapel Street Bridge and Union Station, he added.
The initiative will recruit people living on the street, people who benefit from anti-homelessness programs and those who recently moved into housing after being homeless, Bradley said. Those chosen to participate will receive minimum wage and work three shifts per week, with each shift having five to six workers.
According to a report by the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, New Haven had 625 homeless people in January 2016, roughly 140 of whom were children. Though that figure was slightly higher than in 2015, progress is still being made on reducing chronic homelessness, Bradley said.
“We can’t end homelessness, but we can make it less frequent and of much shorter duration,” he said. “We think that in five to 10 years we’ll do a better job of helping people stay homeless for shorter periods of time, and helping them build their incomes back.”
A state initiative to end chronic homelessness is on track to do so by December.
Bradley added that the RESPECT program’s mix of public, private and nonprofit sponsorship was unique. He said he could not think of other programs that benefitted from such a large grant from a private company like Alexion.
City spokesman Laurence Grotheer said New Haven has worked with LCS to reduce homelessness through the city’s Community Services Administration. When Alexion representatives announced their intention to underwrite an employment program for homeless residents, the city connected the company with LCS.
Grotheer said the city often also partnered with private and nonprofit organizations — such as Yale University, Yale New Haven Hospital, private companies and utility companies — to support programs the local government would not be able to run by itself.
“Success is measured one person at a time,” he said. “The idea of helping people is a mind-set and not a certain policy with any finish line.”
Liberty Community Services was founded in 1987.