By Melissa Garcia

DENVER (CBS4)– Homeless Denver residents are earning a living wage while cleaning up Colfax Avenue. The community program, Colfax Works, is an extension of the Denver Day Works program.

The initiative by the Colfax Avenue Business Improvement District runs along Colfax from Colorado’s Capitol building to East High School.

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Less than four months old, the pilot program has already made an impact.

For years, the stretch has been littered with trash.

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Now the project has cleaned up the street and is also cleaning up lives.

“It helped me get back on my feet fast. And that was great for me and my family,” said a Colfax Works worker named Chris.

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Chris became homeless after a brain injury that he suffered in a car accident.

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The Denver native now has a way to earn money, thanks to the program.

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“It can be a life-changing thing for people,” Chris told CBS4’s Melissa Garcia.

The crew works four days a week and six hours per day picking up trash, painting over graffiti and taking down old flyers along the busy avenue.

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“They’re a good crew. And they show up every day willing and happy to work. And they feel good about what they do,” said Penny Sparks, the program’s shift supervisor. “It’s a great program for them.”

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“We take a lot of pride in what we do. It’s nice. The neighborhood looks better. You feel better. Businesses are feeling better,” Chris said.

“It’s a real win-win for the entire community,” said Frank Locantore, Executive Director of the Colfax Avenue Business Improvement District.

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Locatore said that participants earn “a living wage, which is $12.59 per hour.” More importantly, however, he said they score connections with local companies along with job skills and life resources. The goal is to get them hired in long-term positions.

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“And we’ve already had success in the short time that we’ve had this program where somebody has been able to save up enough money and then move out of a shelter and into his own apartment,” Locantore said.

Officials plan to expand the program over the next four years. They hope to operate seven days a week, year-round.

LINK: Colfax Works

Melissa Garcia has been reporting for CBS4 News since March 2014. Find her bio here, follow her on Twitter @MelissaGarciaTV, or send your story idea to mkgarcia@cbs.com.

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