FORT WORTH -- One of the biggest causes of homelessness is unemployment, and it's incredibly difficult to get a job once you're on the streets.
Those are the self-enforcing realities facing the homeless, including many in Tarrant County. And that's the reason behind a new, for-profit enterprise that's creating jobs for the homeless.
Clean Slate was started this fall by the Presbyterian Night Shelter, the prominent Fort Worth-based homeless shelter. They're now employing 14 homeless people, who perform jobs like parking lot attendant, litter remover, and janitor. Clean Slate is looking for clients who want to hire them, so they can expand.
"It's about a second chance with quality monitoring and supervision," said Toby Owen, CEO of Presbyterian Night Shelter. "It's working now, and we believe it can work so much more and be able to employ so many more people."
Applicants live in the shelter and go through a thorough screening process, including background checks and drug checks. But Clean Slate does have the ability to employ people who have histories that might otherwise prevent them from finding work.
"We are able to be a lot more lenient, because of our ability to supervise our employees and work very closely with them," Owen said.
Profits from Clean Slate go to support the work of the Presbyterian Night Shelter, and employees earn $8-to-12 an hour at their jobs and are encouraged to save up so they can support themselves in permanent housing.
That's the plan for Darlene Shacks.
"I'm getting my first paycheck today," Shacks said with an excited grin. "It's going to mean getting myself a nice place, nice things. I can even have a little bank account and maybe even another car.”
Shacks, 56, became homeless last year after the sudden death of her husband.
"When he died, he was the only billpayer, and I had no means to take care of myself," she said.
She admits that after his death, she began drinking heavily and wound up living in her car before staying at the Presbyterian Night Shelter.
"I grieved so hard," she said.
Now, she's made great strides in rebuilding her life. She cleans bathrooms and Sunday school classrooms at a local church that hired Clean Slate for janitorial services.
"I don't know what to do, I'm just tickled pink," she said. "To me, it means the world right now."