Agency to put homeless in lasting jobs

CLEVELAND (AP) - Advocates for low-income and homeless people are forming an agency that will place them in lasting jobs, rather than bounce them from one low-paying temporary job to the next.
The Community Hiring Hall, made up of more than a dozen social service agencies, unions and other groups, will start a three-month pilot program on July 1.
The nonprofit hiring hall seeks to increase workers' take-home pay and remove barriers that keep them from landing permanent jobs.
An initial group of 25 workers will be chosen from among a pool referred by social service agencies and the hiring hall's advisory board. The number will be expanded if the program is successful.
"Since the 1996 welfare reform, a lot of people were under the assumption that a job -- any job -- was better than no job," said Dan Kerr, one of the leaders of the advisory board.
"It's the question of exploitation that comes back into the equation. The fundamental grievance is that they're not paid fairly for the work that they do."
The hiring hall will pay workers $9.20 an hour, and will provide transportation to work sites where more than five workers are headed or make sure all sites are near a bus route.
Workers have long complained about being taken advantage of by temporary agencies, saying they endure long waits for rides, lose a chunk of their pay for check-cashing and transportation fees and are moved from job to job, discouraging companies from permanently hiring them.
Local temporary agencies said the complaints were overblown and insisted they were helping workers improve their lives.
Jay Lucarelli, president of the Minute Men temporary agency, said he welcomes the new hiring hall.
"We think it's a good thing, another alternative of employment for people to seek out," he said. "We wish them well."
With a $30,000 grant from the United Labor Agency, the Rev. Tony Minor, pastor of Community of Faith Assembly, was hired to develop and run the pilot program.
Minor is raising money and lining up contracts with local employers. The board hopes to run the hall from a storefront east of downtown.
"Our emphasis is to work with employers and other agencies to get people into permanent work," Minor said. "We don't want to limit the job possibilities."
One potential worker, who until last November was living on the streets, will find out next month if he is chosen for the program.
"It would give the workers more dignity," said Michael, 52, who did not want his last name used. "They wouldn't be treated just like a bum off the street, as it were."
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)