Mural Arts pilots a 28-week day wage program with Barra support to reduce street homelessness and build the workforce in Philadelphia.
The “same day work and pay” or “day wage program” model is straightforward: you work, you get paid. The models are being tested in cities around the country as a means to reduce street homelessness and/or substance use disorders, increase connections to social services and housing, and encourage re-entry into the workforce. In the fall of 2019, Philadelphia’s Mural Arts program developed and launched the first same-day-pay program in the city with the support of a Catalyst grant, which helped to fund the research, design, and testing phases alongside Mental Health Partnerships.
Thanks to a partnership with SEPTA, which donated training and workspace in Suburban Station, the city’s busiest underground rail station, Mural Arts was able to launch a pilot program over 28 weeks. Each participant was paid $50 cash for three hours of work creating a new public art project. The payment amount was specifically designed to exceed the living wage standard for Philadelphia.
The underground space donated was ideal since this area of the city was attracting a growing number of people living without homes, many with mental health issues and substance use disorders. Not only was the program designed to provide work and support to individuals in need, but it also helped to decrease crime and increase safety in a critically important part of the city.
With input from the program participants, they named their program “Color Me Back” since the colors used to paint the murals represented their way back to work and pay. Today, thanks to Barra’s risk capital investment, the program has helped to decrease homelessness and related issues and is expanding to other parts of the city in collaboration with the City’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services.