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Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and Speaker Greg Hughes announced the start of Phase Three of Operation Rio Grande and said that this phase is about focusing on individuals and the pride and self-esteem that comes for participating in work.

“The Dignity of Work phase has been an essential part of Operation Rio Grande since its inception,” said Cox. “The importance of work in each of our lives cannot be overstated, and in Phase Three, we are going to provide individuals experiencing homelessness with opportunities to prepare for and engage in positive work experiences.”

A centerpiece of Phase Three is the creation of individualized employment plans tailored to each participant based on their history, education, vocational background, personal goals, and an assessment of their readiness to work. Four full-time employment counselors from the Department of Workforce Services began meeting with homeless individuals from the Rio Grande area yesterday to start building plans.

A committee of private, nonprofit and government organizations is leading the Dignity of Work effort, chaired by Steve Starks, president of Larry H. Miller Sports and Entertainment.

“It is our belief that in order to truly impact people’s lives, they have to be known individually,” said Starks. “They need a friend who cares about them, and they need opportunities to learn, work and be challenged.”

The Dignity of Work plan anticipates three different groups of individuals. The “work ready” group includes individuals who are ready to work now. The pre-employment group includes those who are not ready to work yet because they first need to focus on sobriety, mental health or other issues. The third group falls in between, and will be encouraged to participate in “dignity activities” like workshops, daily devotionals and developing healthy routines.

Starks also introduced “DREAM Teams” which involve private employers providing short-term internship opportunities to provide one-on-one mentorship and learning to prepare participants for paid employment. Businesses interested in participating can learn more at operationriogrande.utah.gov/dow.

“Phase Three is a critical component of Operation Rio Grande,” said Speaker Hughes. “We have created a safer place for people to seek services; we are providing enhanced access to mental health services and drug rehabilitation; and now we are preparing people to engage in meaningful work to become self-reliant.”