By Lizzie Thomas | Staff Writer
Love on Locals (LOL) is a young nonprofit preparing to dramatically expand its capacity to serve and train the homeless community in Waco by fundraising individually through relationships this upcoming year.
Chronic homelessness in Waco has decreased over the years by half, but the problems that keep people homeless have not. Travis McWhorter, founder of Love on Locals, has developed a strategy to meet the individual needs that must be met so those in extreme poverty can maintain their employment.
“We are a faith-based charitable organization, and we focus on the homeless — people who are just out of prison and people with disabilities,” McWhorter said. “We provide temporary employment with job training and mentorship and connect [those who make it through the vetting process] with our network of businesses in the city.”
Cheryl Slane has worked for McWhorter’s organization for a few months and is planning on contributing in the future as a volunteer.
“Up until two weeks ago, I was staying at the Salvation Army Women’s Shelter. I think the motivation to help came from my own journey — now I want to give back,” Slane said.
Slane has three children — ages 9, 5 and 2 — and works for Antioch Community Church.
“I’m learning about homelessness as I go. Homelessness in Waco is a really serious problem, and Travis is helping people who want to get out of that situation,” Slane said.
McWhorter and his wife, Laura, have been experimenting on their own with different strategies for the past two and a half years. Love on Locals became an official nonprofit in April. McWhorter said they cannot just connect someone who is homeless with a job and expect it to go well. LOL invests in the person and prepares them before vouching for them to a business.
“What we do is network in the homeless community — for example, in tent cities where people are living outside or in the woods,” McWhorter said. “We hand out cards saying ‘everyone gets a job this week; it’s $10 an hour.’”
Once they get the large amount of people to work on one of a variety of projects, like “mega-yard-sales” or lawn work, Love on Locals scouts out promising workers.
“It takes 60 man hours [total divided by the number of workers] to pull it all out and set up,” McWhorter said. “We evaluate who’s working hard to get out of their situation of poverty. Then we follow up with them, invest in them spiritually and train them for about two weeks [depending on their consistency] to help them get and keep a job.”
The organization trains potential employees for LOL’s network of businesses on four criteria: professionalism, punctuality, forming and maintaining a budget, and setting and achieving goals. The most common jobs LOL connects their trainees with are in the landscaping, restaurants and moving businesses.
LOL is trying to raise $10,000 by the end of the year to get equipment and supplies to use in 2019 to create more jobs and expand items such as lawn equipment or clothing distribution equipment, as well as, to cover everything like office costs and the salaries of directors and administrative assistants.
McWhorter has been working with the poor for 10 years, overseas and locally. He has previously worked as the community outreach pastor of a local church, and through that, he became friends with many people who are poor.
“I think in the last three or four years, God has put the homeless on our heart,” McWhorter said of himself and his family. “As we address the spiritual side, there’s the practical part that needs to be met, too. Especially the ones who were homeless and had children. That really broke my heart.”
To volunteer, visit https://www.loveonlocals.com for more information about volunteering and signing up to help with tasks, such as administration and/or sorting donations.