Kris Pirkle’s job with the City of Amarillo found him

Kris Pirkle’s job with the City of Amarillo found him. Fate knew that Pirkle had the qualifications and life experience to help others dealing with the issue of homelessness.

About five years ago, Pirkle was serving as a volunteer at the Guyon Saunders Resource Center. This led to a role with the HOPE Program, which led to his current position as Peer Support Specialist with the City of Amarillo (COA) Community Development Department in November of 2019.

As one role led to another, Pirkle found his calling. 

“This job did find me,” Pirkle said. “I was not aware something like this existed. God led me to this path. It was a perfect fit. I did some mentoring through my church, but I found this to be a whole different world.”

As a Peer Support Specialist, Pirkle helps those dealing with the trauma of homelessness, mental health problems and drug addiction.

Pirkle, 43 and married with four children and a granddaughter, knows all too well the problems of homelessness. 

Pirkle, a native of the Big Spring/Midland area, was basically on his own at the age of 10. As a juvenile, he was in and out of trouble with the law. He would sleep in his car or on a friend’s couch. 

“I had a very colorful juvenile background,” said Pirkle. “I have not been homeless to the degree of some people. I have not been to the very bottom. Someone else’s bottom could be a mile further down than mine.”

Pirkle’s background provides the ability to understand the problems of the homeless.

“That is the absolute key ingredient – understanding. We are not to judge from a negative standpoint,” Pirkle said. “We work together in unison as human beings. Hopefully, I see something that I have experienced. I can relate my story and how I overcame that situation.”

Pirkle supervises four Peer Support Specialists, who see on average about eight clients a day.

Pirkle has been instrumental in the success of the city’s Coming Home Program and the Peer Reintegration Employment Partnership (PREP) Academy.

The Coming Home Program, which began in 2018, was a first for Amarillo. The goal is to provide housing and case management in a participant’s home. In June of 2021, Amarillo’s rate of chronically homeless dropped from 27 percent to seven percent, with the Coming Home Program being a primary reason. The city started the PREP Academy in December, with Pirkle serving as the program manager.  The PREP Academy provides participants in the Coming Home program the chance to integrate into the workforce by cleaning and maintaining city parks. Seven of 12 PREP Academy participants are on track to complete the first six weeks of the academy. 

“We are different from the clinical aspect. You are more of a companion and not a clinical worker,” Pirkle said. “You want to understand the emotion of their situation. Everyone is unique, but we can have similar life experiences that can help us help others.”

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