Cedar Rapids unrolls pilot program aimed at cleaning up homeless hotspots

Published: Jun. 20, 2019 at 9:47 PM CDT
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Cedar Rapids is paying former homeless people to enforce the rules in parts of downtown as part of a pilot program through Willis Dady's services.

The focus is on four different areas: Greene Square, the Transit Center, the public library and Green Square Meals.

Five people were hired as ambassadors including Chiquita Rollins and Denise Yuengel.

“I got several people places and shelters, I’ve done over 100 referrals to different jobs,” said Rollins.

Their jobs are to go to those areas and enforce the rules as well as pick up trash.

“We are basically trying to keep the calls to police down,” she said.

Once being homeless themselves, they know what it’s like to be without a roof over their heads.

“It’s stressful, painful, and heartbreaking, I have children and they were with me also,” Rollins explained.

“I was in this park last year,” said Yuengel. “It was not safe, but now it is thanks to the cameras that were installed and us.”

Each ambassador gets paid $10.50 an hour, four hours a day and seven days a week. While that doesn’t sound like much, it is to them.

“I was doing it for free before I got this job,” said Yuengel. “I would still be doing it for free if it weren’t for this program.”

Though the program has only been in the works for the last three weeks, they both said it is already starting to work.

“All it takes usually is a gentle reminder that hey this park is supposed to be here for everybody,” said Denise. “You’re making it hard for mothers and children to come here.”

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