Homeless People Hired to Work & Not Paid by Companies - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Homeless People Hired to Work & Not Paid by Companies

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It is no secret the area's homeless shelters are packed with people who need jobs, even if they are temporary ones.

But people living at the shelters asked us for help when some temp jobs they worked at for days did not end with a paycheck.

If you have not heard a lot about these scams, there is a reason. After talking to staff at a couple of shelters in town, the staff do not know about all of them.

They say whether it is embarrassment or taking away the people who live there's dignity, there are not a lot of people willing to talk about their experiences.

Jen Engquist, the Community Center and Member Relations Director with Churches United for the Homeless shelter in Moorhead, has seen a scam first hand with a man who used to live at the shelter.

"We saw him get picked up every morning to go to work," says Engquist.

She says she was with him when the phone calls to pick the person up for work stopped coming. There was no compensation for the work. 

Engquist says, "I wanted so badly to find out, to get to the root of what happened here, and how this could possibly be."

Routinely companies call looking for people to work. But shelters like Churches United are non-profit organizations and face limitations.

"We're a small staff with lots of people staying here," says Engquist.

Little background checking can be carried out on most of the companies.

We at Valley News Live wanted to look into one of the companies. It is the one that has not paid the man who was at Churches United. The company owner owes the man for nearly 60 hours of work.

We got the owner of Ace Siding LLC out of Erskine, Minnesota on the phone and asked him why he did not pay the man for 60 hours of work and why he stopped picking him up from the shelter.

The owner said, "He called and said I can't do the job."

After a few minutes, he said he had to go, but he called back a couple minutes later.

"Have him call me today, right now. I will have a check for him on Friday," said the owner.

While this employer decided that he would do the right thing, Engquist knows there are others who will not. 

"I wish that there was something we could do from the inside of this building to protect these guys," says Engquist.

The only thing more hurtful to her after putting forth time and energy to help find jobs for those at the shelter is how society will view them.

She says, "People judge homelessness. They say that these people don't want to work. They're lazy. They're bums. And we see these guys get up and go to work every single day. And when they get scammed, that's a complete dishonor."

Before heading to air, we talked to Churches United about what they owner told us. 

They said they think it is incredible that the owner is now willing to pay the man. They still think it is shameful for the owner to take advantage of people in a vulnerable situation.

We will be following this story to bring you updates on whether or not the owner does pay the man.

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