By Melissa O'Brien
When Andre Carson lost his job of 10 years due to a change in company ownership and their policy regarding his previous criminal record, he went through a period of turmoil. After connecting with Greg Thompson, a project manager for the Institute for the Development of African-American Youth (IDAAY), he was quickly able to find work through PHS’s Same Day Work and Pay program. From that experience, he became a full-time crew member on IDAAY’s Community LandCare team that operates most of the year cleaning and greening vacant lots in partnership with PHS. “I loved the job and ended up working my way up from a trash picker all the way up to crew leader,” says Andre.
However, Andre’s goal was to work full-time for SEPTA. This was challenging because of his past record, but with the encouragement and support of Greg and his fellow crew members, Andre was able to land a job with SEPTA in September of this year. “This has been a surreal moment for me, and I feel like my life is really coming together now,” says Andre.
Andre’s story perfectly demonstrates the impact of PHS’s Same Day Work and Pay initiative and ongoing Workforce Development efforts. Since launching in November 2020, the Same Day Work and Pay program has created 1,500 jobs for underemployed and unemployed Philadelphians in historically disinvested communities. Read on for more about this ground-breaking program that benefits Philadelphians and their communities.
"The program is impactful, resident-driven workforce development and community engagement at its best. It's so well-received — the community loves to see them coming!" -Majeedah Rashid
The Same Day Work and Pay Program is a collaborative effort, bringing together government, nonprofit, and community organizations. The initiative links Philadelphia's City Council, the current Kenney administration, and non-profit organizations including PHS as well as seven Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) to provide daily job opportunities to residents in historically disinvested communities to find work cleaning, greening, and beautifying Philadelphia neighborhoods and receive payment on the same day of the work performed.
Each week during the program, seven CBOs identify work assignments that last from 5-6 hours per day, and participants are paid $100 per day on-site where they can also connect with social services support. Work includes cleaning vacant lots of land, cleaning streets, and providing simple maintenance care in various areas of the city — meeting individuals where they live.
The program was launched in 2020 as a response to the economic effects of the pandemic, but since then, it has become apparent that there is an ongoing need for more workday events for residents. According to the Pew Trust, Philadelphia is still the poorest big city in the country, with 24.5% of households living below the federal poverty line. PHS Workforce Development Manager Amber Crawford says:
“When I first started working to manage the program, I thought it would be really good when it comes to the pandemic hitting and people needing money. But it became so much bigger than them just needing money. This has impacted people's lives. I've seen participants receive jobs and build social connections to the point where they're now being mentored by other people. So, it really showed that it's bigger than just the $100 that someone receives at the end of the workday.”
By participating in this program, community members learn job readiness skills and develop their work experience. Many individuals participating in Same Day Work and Pay often lack access to essential prerequisites to securing a full-time job, such as a bank account, social security card, or professional email address — meaning that the program might be one of few avenues available to them to gain employment.
Through this program, members have highlighted the personal benefits and takeaways from their experience working single days over several consecutive weeks. Program participant Kwamire Whitest said, “The Same Day Pay program keeps me out of trouble and is helping to build my resume.”
Participants learn how to communicate more effectively as a team and present themselves professionally. They can then apply the learned skills from Same Day Work and Pay to how they function in their communities and homes, with the goal of obtaining more stable and long-term employment.
The results? Since November 2020, 105 participants have moved on to full-time jobs and an additional 40 Same Day Work and Pay participants are currently working with PHS’s Philadelphia LandCare contractor network and other CBOs.
Working with CBOs, PHS brings the Same Day Work and Pay program benefits to neighborhoods that have suffered from decades of disinvestment due to structural racism. Research has shown that cleaning and greening these neighborhoods reduces gun violence, crime, and fear. Another study found that greening vacant urban land improves the mental health of community members.
Majeedah Rashid, Chief Operating Officer at Nicetown Community Development Corporation (CDC), has witnessed the immediate impact of Same Day Work and Pay first-hand. She says, "The program is impactful, resident-driven workforce development and community engagement at its best. It's so well-received — the community loves to see them coming!"
PHS Workforce Development Manager Amber Crawford recounts, “I had one participant say they joined because they couldn't believe they saw other people from the neighborhood doing the programs and actually being out there, street cleaning, and making sure the community was up to par. So, I think that the impact has really taken effect.”
In total, PHS’s Same Day Work and Pay program participants have a lasting impact on their communities by creating healthier, safer, and more livable neighborhoods.