Boise & Garden City

Hiring the homeless: Boise Parks and Rec tries to help people gain independence

Take a 3-minute tour of Interfaith Sanctuary

Former executive director Jayne Sorrels gives an inside glimpse of the shelter shortly after its 10th anniversary in December 2015.
Up Next
Former executive director Jayne Sorrels gives an inside glimpse of the shelter shortly after its 10th anniversary in December 2015.

The Boise City Council approved a pilot program Tuesday authorizing the Parks and Recreation Department to hire 10 people who stay at Interfaith Sanctuary, a homeless shelter, on a temporary basis.

The hiring initiative is a one-month pilot program. The city will re-assess it after the month is over and determine whether to continue, expand or scrap it, Parks and Recreation director Doug Holloway said. Holloway said he hopes to put the new employees to work by mid-April.

If successful, this program would be a win-win for the workers and City Hall. The job could help the workers transition out of homelessness and into stable homes and independent lives. Parks and Recreation always is looking for workers these days, Holloway said, because the labor market is tight.

Holloway said Parks and Recreation will pay the Sanctuary workers $9.25 per hour to start, a wage that’s on the lower end of the department’s pay scale but $2 more than the minimum wage. They’ll be expected to work five hours per day, five days a week to begin with.

The Parks and Recreation initiative grew out of an expanded case worker program at Sanctuary, development director Jodi Peterson said. Since last year, the shelter has brought on more case workers to help people who stay there progress as much as they can and want to.

Many residents want to work and are capable of doing so, Peterson said, though some need guidance on preliminary items, such as identification cards.

Peterson and Holloway said a program in Albuquerque, N.M., inspired the pilot program to give homeless people Parks and Recreation jobs here. In Albuquerque, the city hired people on the spot who were begging for money on the side of the streets.

Holloway said some details of the New Mexico program, such as how taxes are applied, gave Boise’s Human Resources department some heartburn, but City Hall liked the general idea.

Workers who show they’re reliable and effective employees could become nine-month seasonal employees, Holloway said. Seasonal workers often land full-time permanent jobs when there’s an opening, he said.

  Comments