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State officials kick off “Phase Three” of Operation Rio Grande

SALT LAKE CITY – The state is officially launching the next phase of Operation Rio Grande, and they say it focuses on helping homeless people get jobs if they’re ready for them.

Phase three is called “Dignity of Work”, and state officials says companies like Okland Construction have already signed on to offer jobs, with more companies to follow.  Committee Member Steve Starks says there will also be four Department of Workforce Services employment counselors around Rio Grande Street.  Committee member Steve Starks says, “They’re going to go one-on-one and meet these individuals to find out a little bit about their background and their vocational histories.”

However, counselors will have to determine if someone is prepared to come back to work.  Starks says some people may not be ready.  He says, “The first category may be people that are not ready to transition into employment right now because they have to overcome substance abuse, or they have to deal with other challenges in their lives before they can transition.”  Other categories include people who may be ready for smaller jobs before they get something more permanent.

Committee Member Maurice Egan with The Other Side Academy is a recovering addict who had been homeless himself.  He says if homeless people don’t get the right counseling and the right guidance, free housing could just enable addicts to use more drugs.  “I was offered housing. The problem is that I was still a practicing addict.  I turned that apartment into a drug den,” Egan says.

He also says it’s not enough just to get someone in need a job if they don’t form good work habits.  He adds, “Once I got into the work flow, showing up on time, being accountable and becoming self-supportive, I began to believe in myself again.”

Job fairs are scheduled to start next month.