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Editorial: City's homeless-to-work program a welcome step

Nov. 12, 2017 at 12:09 a.m.

What a refreshing idea to help tackle Longview's homeless problem: Providing jobs with decent wages to those willing and able to work.

That is just what the city of Longview soon will begin doing through a new plan approved last week by the City Council that offers homeless people a job cleaning up litter around the city. The program sprang from from ideas developed by Mayor Andy Mack's task force on homeless issues.

The goal is to use temporary work to help get folks back on their feet and, perhaps, assist them in developing habits that might help them land more permanent work.

We imagine that by increasing connections with members of our city's homeless population, it also will boost efforts to connect people with addiction and other problems to counseling and other assistance programs that already serve those populations.

What a wonderful development.

The program will be administered by the House of Disciples through a contract with the city, and Mack said he hoped it also provides a model for private businesses to follow in offering work for folks down on their luck and hampered by lackluster — or no — resumes and even criminal records.

It comes at little cost. Duane Archer, the city's assistant public works director, explained the city already has funding set aside for litter collection, which has been done by temporary workers.

"That funding would then be taken and used for hiring people through House of Disciples," he said. "This would give those individuals the opportunity to better their situation … and to be paid while they do that."

House of Disciples will conduct background checks and document program applicants, potentially providing a temporary workforce to meet other needs — public or private — as well.

Of course, this program alone is unlikely to end the bigger problem of homelessness in Longview. But it is one we have seen have a positive impact in other cities. And for the hundreds of homeless people trying to regain their lives and provide for their families in Longview, it will provide a viable opportunity.

As the mayor said: "This is our first step forward, and it's a big step."

We could not agree more.

Obviously, one of the best ways to get out of poverty is to consistently make reliable money. For the city to help make that happen through an established program like House of Disciples, which offers successful programs for homeless and addicted populations in Longview and elsewhere, is a fine idea.

It is one that offers people in need a hand up — in more ways than one — instead of a handout. We applaud this straightforward, common-sense approach.



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