For the first time in his life, State Industrial Commissioner Stephen H. Hadley is sporting a beard.
Gray and itching though it is, the beard served a useful purpose for Hadley in helping understand how the commission can better help the homeless and transient population look for work or get to a job once one is found.
The beard had its genesis when the Homeless Organization for People Everywhere asked the commission for help after Job Service, one of the commission's agencies, closed a temporary employment office at 60 E. Sixth South. That means the nearest temporary employment office is at 2861 S. Ninth West.
Because the majority of transients and homeless people frequent the area near Pioneer Park, Hadley said they have a problem getting to the Job Service office to look for work.
HOPE officials invited the commission to a meeting several weeks ago to discuss the employment problems among transients and the homeless, but Hadley said they didn't appear satisfied with the results.
So, with the knowledge of his fellow commissioners, Thomas R. Carlson and John Florez, and his family, Hadley grew the beard for three days and headed for Pioneer Park armed only with a sleeping bag, a toothbrush and a driver's license for identification. He carried no money, but was able to eat regularly at various places providing meals.
Hadley is quick to note that in three days he didn't see all of the problems that transients and the homeless face in getting a job. Nor does he have any illusions about solving all of the problems. "But I have a better understanding that some changes can be made that would benefit them," he said.
Have some changes been made?
Job Service is federally funded and operates a van between the 2861 S. Ninth West office and the Pioneer Park area. The commission will add to the route to ensure people are picked up at other locations. Also, a Job Service employee will go to the St. Vincent De Paul Center, 427 W. Second South, semi-weekly to assist clients with short-term jobs.
"We will continue to evaluate the problem and attack the needs with the resources we have," he said.
Hadley said he didn't go among the street people to call attention to himself or glamorize his agency. "I just wanted to try and understand the problems and how we can help."
What's it like to be a street person?
"It is a different environment. It made me appreciate what I have. There are many people down there with shattered dreams and the stories behind the shattered dreams are as numerous as the people."
Dressed in some of his own clothes, Hadley associated with three men (one of whom served as a guide and knew Hadley's real identity). For two nights, the four men slept near I-15 close to Second South and the commissioner admitted he didn't get much sleep because he isn't used to sleeping on the ground.
During the day, Hadley's companions went to some temporary jobs and he visited a mission, a shelter, St. Vincent's and the Traveler's Aid Society. Each of these facilities serves a need and they attempt to coordinate their activities, he said.
Among street people, Hadley said you don't ask many questions, but if you offer some information about yourself people will listen. His companions got their money from part-time jobs and not from panhandling, but they seemed never to get enough to get ahead.