Brick-By-Brick program

In the front row from left, Jennifer Beasley, Scott Craig and Dhanie Irawan work with the Brick-By-Brick program with (back row from left) Reese Miller, Tim Bach and Djene Diane. 

Scottsdale Works is a new program designed to provide employment and access to resources to homeless individuals living in the city.

Inspired by a similar program in Glendale, Scottsdale Works is a partnership between City of Scottsdale’s Human Services Department and Phoenix Rescue Mission, a faith-based non-profit providing services for people struggling with homelessness, drug addiction and trauma.

The Scottsdale program, which runs three days each week, pays five participants minimum wage for five hours of work with the city’s Brick-by-Brick program, which produces earthen bricks that can later be used to construct city projects or housing for the homeless.

Initial funding for the program will come from federal pandemic-relief funds received by the city.

Recent surveys have shown that Scottsdale has a smaller homeless population than other Valley cities, but numbers are on the rise.

The most recent annual Point in Time count identified 102 homeless individuals in Scottsdale earlier this year, up from 76 in 2019.

While working with the Scottsdale program, participants also receive meals and assistance accessing other available services, including housing, addiction treatment, medical care and transportation to job interviews.

“Just basically any service provided that can better their situation,” said Gabe Priddy, Phoenix Rescue Mission’s street outreach supervisor. 

Scottsdale Works is modeled after Glendale Works, a similar partnership between Phoenix Rescue Mission and Glendale that employs homeless people on beautification projects and landscaping.

Scottsdale Human Services Director Greg Bestgen said he was intrigued by Glendale Works.

“So really the idea was to bring this social enterprise model, and that’s really the key phrase here is to bring what we consider to be our restorative, dignity, honest days work type model,” he said.

Priddy said the Glendale program has been in operation for around two years and now employs as many as 20 people each day.

“You’ll see people building confidence,” he said. “You just see their self-esteem go up.”

Scottsdale Works differs in some ways from Glendale.

Participants in Scottsdale will create compressed earth blocks with the city’s Brick-by-Brick program. The blocks, created by compressing soil with a manual press, can then be used to construct affordable housing or a range of city projects like bus stops, restrooms, retaining and garden walls.

After volunteers or workers form the CEBs; the bricks must cure for 28 days.

“They’re very weather resistant and very strong – we’ve had them tested and they’re about three times stronger than code requires,” said Mike Lopach, a city Human Services specialist.

Lopach, who co-founded New Mexico non-profit Adobe in Action, first brought the idea of the Brick to Brick program before the city’s Human Relations Commission in 2018.

Since then, the program donated 200 bricks to the Alli Ortega Memorial Garden that was built at the Paiute Neighborhood Center last year.

The Brick-by-Brick program was started in partnership with the Partners for Paiute non-profit, which funded the purchase of the manual brick press, a machine that retails for several thousand dollars.

Bestgen said pairing the new Scottsdale Works program with Brick-by-Brick was a natural fit.

Participants work with Lopach and other supervisors to learn how to operate the manual press machine.

Lopach said the teams can consistently produce about 120 bricks per day

Priddy said organizers make an effort to spread the word about the program in the community and give as many people as possible the opportunity to participate.