UpSpire gains city grounds contract, helping homeless find employment

Published on March 09, 2022

up close view of a mower mowing grass

The City Council on Tuesday approved an additional contract with Presbyterian Night Shelter, allowing people experiencing homelessness to gain work through grounds maintenance.

As a result of this week’s Council action, Presbyterian Night Shelter crews will be assigned to maintain planting beds surrounding Race Street beginning this fall. Upspire workers will perform litter removal, mowing, string trimming, blowing and bed maintenance as part of their contract.

The Presbyterian Night Shelter program, originally named Clean Slate, was rebranded last year to be called Upspire. The shelter’s social enterprise arm has a goal of eliminating barriers to employment. The two biggest barriers to employment are housing insecurity and having a criminal background.

“Grounds maintenance of Fort Worth’s public spaces is a vital city service. It feels good to work with Upspire, as they have consistently done a good job over the past two years during the pandemic, and Upspire employs staff that otherwise may have difficulty finding work,” said Debbie Branch, a district superintendent in the Park & Recreation Department who oversees mowing contracts.

In 2019, the Park & Recreation Department held a Let’s Mow event to help potential grounds maintenance companies understand how to become a mowing contractor with the City of Fort Worth. Presbyterian Night Shelter staff attended that event and became one of three new mowing contractors beginning in March 2020.

Presbyterian Night Shelter already had litter removal contracts with the city’s Code Compliance Department and mowing contracts with Park & Recreation, but the move into contracts for grounds maintenance, including bedding plants, was new.

Mowing facts

  • Mowing season typically runs March-November, depending on the weather.
  • There are 11 contractors handling more than 40 contracts.
  • City contractors mow about 1,250 pieces of property every two to three weeks.
  • The distance mowed annually would stretch farther than across the United States coast to coast and back again.
  • The city’s Parks & Recreation Department handles mowing in parks, rights of way without access by private property owner, traffic dividers (medians), corner clips, some city facilities and city-owned lots.



Photo: City contractors mow more than 1,200 properties every two to three weeks during the nine-month mowing season.



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