Jerry Gary thinks he's found a way to help homeless people become self-sufficient while enhancing his own marketing operation.
The young entrepreneur, owner of the Homeless Work Program, hires up to 10 part-time workers to sell $29.95 survival kits by telephone. His employees are homeless and he pays them a commission, with a guarantee of atleast $5 an hour. He recruits workers at the shelters and soup kitchens and through low-income hotels."It's a good place for them to start getting things back together," Gary said. "Here, they can do good work and not feel degraded. They're fairly successful or they don't stay around."
A telemarketing job doesn't have some of the barriers other programs offer the homeless, Gray said, like a need for business clothing.
Gray admits that his is counting on the concern people have for the homeless to help them sell products. But he said the homeless and the company both benefit from the arrangement.
"Obviously, homelessness plays a part in the selling. But we are not using homeless people and their appeal to sel outrageously priced kits. Our kits are very competitively priced.
"It does help to have homeless people. At the same time, they need a job. And not every employer wants to hire the homeless. So I think it works very well and they genuinely benefit from it."
Because his office is located about two miles from the shelter, homeless employees have to make an effort to get to the program. For that reason, Gray said, he's attracting people who really want to work.
Just this week, Gray changed the name of his company. he found that the original name, the Emergency Work Program, was being used by a state Human Services program. While there was no legal requirement that he change the name, Gray said he didn't want to be confused with the state program any more that the state wanted to be confused with his.