Brett Hart never imagined he’d end up homeless. The Denver-based engineer spent years working maintenance jobs and earning a decent living, until a bike accident upended his life.
“I was T-boned by a car,” he says. “And so unfortunately when that happens, you end up in the hospital… You spend 30 days in the hospital and you’re not working, so you can’t pay the rent for those 30 days. So you get evicted and you lose your job… So you find yourself pretty much on the street.”
Living temporarily in a camper and desperate for cash, Hart discovered a program that could help him get his life back on track.
Denver Day Works was launched by the city’s Human Services department in November 2016 to provide low-barrier employment opportunities to people experiencing homelessness. Modeled after similar programs in other cities, Denver Day Works pays participants $12 to $13 per hour to help with city projects like cleaning up the streets, landscaping and general maintenance. Participants also receive breakfast and lunch while they’re working, bus fare to get to worksites, and access to employment specialists who can help them find long-term work opportunities.
“Maybe a subtitle for this program is MythBusters, because I think a lot of people, including myself, weren’t sure how successful this would be,” says Don Mares, executive director of Denver Human Services. “We had so many people sign up … that we had a waitlist of folks to come and do that work.”
Boosted by the legal marijuana market and a booming aerospace industry, Denver’s economy continues to thrive. But with its economic resurgence, the city must also grapple with rising housing prices and a recent spike in homelessness.
Watch the video above to learn more about how Denver Day Works is helping people like Hart and others who have fallen on hard times get a fresh start.