For the past year, Camden County has offered a program that helps get people experiencing homelessness off the streets by paying them a day's wage and offering social services for anyone willing to work.

It's called the Work Now program and Camden County Freeholder Carmen Rodriguez said what homeless people need more than a place to live, is a job to help them feel self-sufficient.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Camden County has about 500 to 600 homeless people on any given day.

The Freeholder Board teamed up with Volunteers of America to go into high-homeless areas and invite the people for a day of work. The people work for the day cleaning parks and get paid $75.

The team talks with them at the end of the day, encouraging the participants to seek social service programs.

"We have a moral imperative to aid the most vulnerable members of our community and help them stabilize themselves by getting them off the street," said Rodriguez.

So far, she says the Work Now program has been a success. Rodriguez said 396 individuals have earned a day's pay and 127 of those participants accepted social services. But she said when the mission is to end homelessness, Step 2 must be implemented. That step is "The Bridge to Work" program, which began six months ago.

Individuals who have been successful with the Work Now program and who engaged in social services are invited to interview for permanent part-time positions. Graduating to the next level puts participants on firmer ground to find permanent housing and move on to a private employer.

Once they interview and get their job, Rodriguez said they're going to be working permanently.

Three homeless people were interviewed last week.

One gentleman reconnected with his family as a result of these program. He had daughters who were in foster care but now he has custody of them. Two others found themselves in permanent housing.

Putting the persistently homeless to work in part-time jobs and transitioning them into full-time employment will also save the county and taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars and provide relief from the stress on a variety of institutions. For example, the chronically homeless tend to put a strain on healthcare and emergency services. Regarding incarceration, it costs Camden County $55,000 a year to house a single inmate in jail.

 

Based off the success of Camden County's program, Philadelphia will be launching its own day-work program on Monday.

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