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Detroit priest hires homeless to help clean up the city

Youtube - Better Way Detroit

J-P Mauro - published on 04/26/19

Better Way Detroit is the result of priestly efforts to help the homeless community.

Homelessness is on the rise in America. According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, there are an estimated 554,000 homeless persons sleeping in the streets on any given night.

The severity of the situation is most easily recognizable in major cities, where “tent cities,” or sprawling homeless camps, have become a normal feature. Gathering all those in need into one place seems like the best way to aid them all, but Self Develop Shop reports many of the citizens and charity organizations who visit “tent cities” to perform works of mercy are often stopped by the authorities.

The result of such intervention is that there are precious few options for those who are homeless to improve on their situation. In cities across America, able-bodied men and women who are willing to work sit idle while the opioid crisis, along with other factors, adds more to their ranks each day.

In Detroit, however, there is a new charitable organization which is drawing on this workforce for the betterment of the city. Better Way Detroit is following in the teachings of Pope Francis, when he said, “Work is fundamental to the dignity of the person.” As they describe their work on their website, they engage, pay, feed, and counsel homeless persons, as well as help them find services for housing and health.

The non-profit brings homeless people to public spaces and pays them $10 per hour to clean the area of trash. The honest pay for honest labor helps to empower these workers, while the setting encourages them to participate in the community.

Better Way Detroit is supported solely by donations and is hosted in the Oratory of St. Philip Neri. The organization was conceived by Father Marko Djonovic of the midtown parish of Our Lady of the Rosary, who can be seen in the video below.

Fr. Djonovic organizes the whole affair, traveling in his Suburban truck to sites where he knows homeless sleep. He then approaches different people each day, in an effort to spread the reach of his program as far as he can. All the while, the priest engages the workers, talking to them with the human dignity each of us deserves.

The homeless workers who take part in the project have nothing but good things to say about it. They find satisfaction in seeing the fruits of their labor enjoyed by the public. Winfield Jackson, a homeless man who works to clean parks so that children may spend more time outdoors, told Fox News:

“Work is good. Everybody likes money, so what’s wrong with a little work … Take negative situations and turn them into positive situations. This is a positive situation. We’re earning money without panhandling. Instead of standing on the freeway begging people for change, we’re earning something.”

Father Djonovic beams about the project in the interview below. The down-to-earth priest seems happy about their progress, but from his expression it is clear that he wishes he could do even more. He notes that the program is always in need of donations. He said:

“This program requires funding to pay these men. Right now it’s just being funded by myself and the donations I’ve received from others. Its personal. It’s not sustainable, right now it is not sustainable at all and I’m praying and hoping that the generous people of God can help fund Better Way Detroit, which gives homeless persons work opportunities. It helps beautify our beloved city of Detroit, and offers the caring members of our community better way to help those in need. “Simply, the more money we can raise, the more homeless persons we can offer work to.”

Better Way Detroit is always looking for more donations. It’s worth supporting their efforts, for if the program is found to be a success in Detroit then it is quite possible we could see similar organizations spring up all over the country. If you are interested in donating, contributions can be made on their website.

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