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Local Animal Shelter Partners to Hire the Homeless


A dog in a kennel at the Fort Worth Animal Shelter | Image by WFAA

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The Fort Worth Animal Shelter recently found a unique solution to the challenging problem of having an insufficient number of workers to care for an overwhelming number of animals.

After reaching out to a homeless and vagrant shelter, they created a new program together.

“It literally got to the point I didn’t have supervisors or managers anymore because they were having to clean cages,” said Brandon Bennett, who manages the animal shelter.

He reached out to the Presbyterian Night Shelter, which runs a non-profit employment program called UpSpire.

UpSpire helps homeless and vagrant guests of Presbyterian Night Shelter and others who are unable to find employment. Their goal is to break the cycle of homelessness and unemployment by providing jobs that restore individual dignity.

According to UpSpire’s website, 50% of its participants move into their own housing after four months of employment through the program.

UpSpire was created several years ago when it employed two homeless individuals to pick up litter. Since then, it has expanded to about 100 workers who have worked in a wide variety of jobs.

“These are full-time jobs, [with] full benefits, that help our homeless population get out of homelessness by having employment,” shelter CEO Toby Owen said.

The organization goes further than solely providing work for homeless and vagrant members of the community.

It also hires people who have trouble finding jobs, such as ex-convicts working to re-integrate into society. The two biggest obstacles when seeking employment are homelessness and a criminal record, according to the shelter.

“Bringing Presbyterian Night Shelter in and their workers has been a godsend,” Bennett said.

The partnership has brought 10 workers into the animal shelter, with plans to add more.

Madison Edmonds has been working at the Fort Worth Animal Shelter through UpSpire for about a year and recently was promoted to supervisor. She earns $16 per hour, plus benefits.

“I like it a lot. I mean, you get to work with animals all day,” she said.

“This program is not just about cleaning kennels,” Bennett said. “It’s about life success, and it’s good to be a part of that.”

Tarrant County has 40 organizations that offer services to the homeless and vagrant population. Still, between January 1 and June 30 of this year, 3,008 people lived on the street or in shelters across the area, according to data from the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition (TCHC).

TCHC found that 4,210 people experienced homelessness or vagrancy during the second quarter of 2022, an increase of 14% compared to the previous quarter. Only 12% of people who experienced homelessness or vagrancy were relocated into housing during this quarter.   

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