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Individuals working their way out of homelessness beautify Independence streets

A woman on a sidewalk walks behind a large yellow trashcan with a trash-grabbing tool in her hand.
Cindi Rogers
Community Services League
After spending years facing housing instability, Marquita James found work that benefited herself and the City of Independence. "It's bigger than a job. It's the smile on people's faces when we're done," said James, who works to beautify Independence roadways.

Independence, Missouri, is beautifying the city through the work of individuals facing housing instability. Independence T.O.G.E.T.H.E.R., a supported employment program, offers an array of support, including an hourly wage, housing fund and meals, for individuals willing to work along Independence roadways.

A partnership between the City of Independence, Missouri Department of Transportation and Community Services League is helping to beautify the city while simultaneously providing jobs and wrap around services to individuals working their way out of homelessness.

Independence T.O.G.E.T.H.E.R. aims to provide "a meaningful pathway out of homelessness," said Doug Cowan, president and CEO of Community Services League.

"In today's world, we're looking for creative solutions that help break cycles of poverty, cycles of homelessness, and give people real opportunities to move ahead," Cowan said.

The nonprofit pays an hourly rate and also $3 per hour is set aside for a housing fund.

"I just expected, to be honest, start a job, and it was bigger than starting a job. They took us in, they showed us love, they put trust in us," said Marquita James, an employee of Independence T.O.G.E.T.H.E.R.

"There was a lot of us that were lost through the things that we were going through," James said, "and no matter how big the challenge was, they were always there to just keep us going."

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