Work Today, a fledgling Youth Services day-labor program piloted last summer has a little over a month left of resumed operations, this time expanding work sites beyond maintenance and project work for the Town of Brattleboro, its primary employer last year.
Area businesses, nonprofits or property owners who need temporary labor at their homes on a Tuesday or Thursday before October 1 are encouraged to sign up now, preferably with at least a week’s advance notice on when workers are sought.
Youth Services charges the work site $20 an hour to hire the day laborers. Fifteen dollars an hour goes to the worker at the end of each day and $5 goes toward the salary of a part-time coordinator, who matches participants with work sites, provides hiring, supervision, lunches, transportation and payment, as well as referrals and recommendations for future employment and community supports.
So far this session, Work Today participants have sealed decks and painted sheds, pulled weeds, moved boxes, painted a home, gardened, worked on cars, unloaded delivery trucks, completed housekeeping tasks, done dishes and food prep, stacked firewood, cleaned out invasive plants, picked fruit, and performed yard clean ups.
According to Work Today Coordinator, Michaela Stockwell, much of the work this time of year tends to be outdoors, though she is always looking for projects the workers can do indoors when it is raining or dangerously hot. Stockwell describes the amount of work typically booked as ranging from one day to several weeks of work, though the individual workers on a project may change each week.
If townspeople are curious, Stockwell recommends they start with a one-day booking on a trial basis or share workers with a neighbor and add to the number of days once they are comfortable with the outcomes, she explained. “We are really looking for compassionate partners in this effort — to employ people who want to work despite living in difficult circumstances,” Stockwell said.
The goal in creating the day labor program, Stockwell said, was to address people’s needs while staying in compliance with laws and labor rights in an effort to support individuals who, for numerous reasons, are unable to access traditional work, largely due to systemic barriers. Spurred by community concern around panhandling, the program welcomes Work Today participants have been homeless or are in recovery.
Stockwell explained that employers can determine how many workers they want for a given project, and are expected to provide most materials or tools needed and be available for instructions or problem-solving during the job. If the job site is located outside of Brattleboro proper, it is helpful if the “employers” help with transportation at the beginning and end of the workday, but it is not a requirement.
“Typically, we have more than 20 people in line seeking day work and have to turn half of them away as we’ve only had jobs for 7,” said Bradbury-Carlin, Executive Director of Youth Services, describing the popularity of the low-barrier work program. “When people are ready and able to work, they are able to earn money, and when they are not, they are able to come back the next day or the next week,” he explained.
“We see this summer and fall as being our second pilot– to see whether the community as a whole will step up in giving these workers an opportunity and whether we can find funding to build on this innovative approach to providing easy avenues for employment,” stated Bradbury-Carlin.
A Work Today participant last summer, Joseph Hedberg, recounted that the days went quicker if he stayed busy and he was more likely to be able to maintain his sobriety, now going on three years. “I feel better about myself if I’m working, if I can buy myself a cup of coffee instead of relying on hand-outs,” Hedberg said at the time. Formerly a licensed plumber and maintenance person, he tackled some of the more complicated jobs at Work Today with obvious skill, taking pride in doing a job right.
Youth Services sets people up with their jobs, trouble-shoots with employers, provides lunch and counseling services in the afternoon and participants return back to work afterwards. Workers are paid in cash at the end of the day.
“The number one goal is to get cash into people’s pockets,” said Bradbury-Carlin. “It’s as simple as that.”
The day labor program falls under the same structure of DemoGraphix, a mission-driven limited liability company established two years ago by Youth Services as an employment and mentor program, a youth-led screen printing business that is also looking for screen-printing projects from area businesses.
If area residents anticipate having projects that could utilize day-labor, email email@example.com with date options and a description or call Renee at (802) 257-0361 x131 or Michaela at (802) 258-7236. For more information about Youth Services or to support the continuation of the program with a donation, visit youthservicesinc.org