Color Me Back: A Same Day Work and Pay Program

Combining participatory art-making and access to social services.

Color Me Back: A Same Day Work and Pay Program is an innovative new initiative that combines participatory art-making and access to social services in a unique model offering individuals who are experiencing economic insecurity an opportunity to earn wages. Designed in partnership with the Scattergood Foundation, SEPTA, and Mental Health Partnerships, the initiative is managed by Mural Arts’ Porch Light community wellness program, a collaboration with the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services. Participants are recruited through outreach and have the opportunity to connect, contribute, and engage with outreach specialists who can link them with support services, including social and/or behavioral health services and potential opportunities for longer-term employment while working in the program.

This 28-week pilot program launched in April 2019 and was designed to reach individuals who are not necessarily connected to services. Each participant is paid $50 cash for three hours of work creating a new public art project. The payment amount was specifically designed to exceed the living wage standard for Philadelphia.

Color Me Back: A Same Day Work and Pay Program at Suburban Station. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Participants are recruited from the areas surrounding Philadelphia’s Suburban Station leading to a lottery each morning (Monday – Thursday) in nearby Love Park. The pilot serves ten people per day working with trained teaching artist Alvin Tull, design artist Gabe Tiberino, and outreach workers to design and paint a mural. The first mural, in SEPTA’s Suburban Station concourse. is planned for completion by mid-summer.

Each day of the program, between 30 and 40 individuals gather to participate in the lottery for one of the ten daily slots. Those who are selected help design and paint mural panels which will be installed in the concourse. Outreach workers have learned that the most-needed services are employment, shelter or housing, and basic needs, such as showers, clothes, and food. In the first six weeks of the program, over 160 participants received payment for same day work.

Color Me Back draws on the successful experiences of other cities in offering ‘same day wage’ to help address economic instability.

In the News  

Philly launched a program to put homeless people to work. Here’s what happened. – Philadelphia Inquirer, June 11, 2019

Philly’s Mural Arts taps an underutilized workforce with ‘same-day pay.” – KYW Newsradio, June 5, 2019


The Barra Foundation
Sheller Family Foundation