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Homeless jobs program in Huntington facing funding issues

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A jobs program for the homeless in Huntington is in danger of not being able to operate this year because of funding issues. The "Green Team" program pays homeless people to water plants and flowers in the downtown area.

Warmer weather is just around the corner, and downtown Huntington will be in bloom, but keeping that bloom throughout the spring and summer may be a problem this year.

Keith Whitfield of Huntington is planning to be part of Green Team this year. His job is to keep 100 potted plants and 200 hanging baskets watered seven days a week all summer.

"Beautifying the city of Huntington shows we take stock in our city. It shows we care about what happens in our city," Whitfield said.

About a dozen homeless people will be hired for Green Team. Besides keeping the downtown area blooming with flowers, the program gives folks such as Whitfield a job history.

"Green Team helped me get back into working -- where it taught me skills, where you get up every morning. If you like the job or not, you still get out here. We do it. We still earn a living," Whitfield said.

The danger this year is the program may not have enough money to hire people to care for the flowers.

Bill Rosenberger, director of development at Harmony House, said the minimum wage went up, and there are some other expenses "we want to make sure we cover and so we feel like we are about 50 percent of where we need to be." He said $20,000 is needed to get the program going this year.

"It's the people that come downtown who will suffer because you won't have the flowers there the entire summer," Rosenberger said.

The goal is to have the entire funding in place by the end of April because that is when the hanging flowers will be put out on the light poles and potted plants throughout the city.

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