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New Mural Arts Program Transforming Lives Of Homeless Philadelphians While Beautifying City

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A new mural will be unveiled Tuesday in SEPTA's Suburban Station. It's creation is part of a new program that's transforming lives.

It's a same day work and pay program that's connecting people who are struggling and in need of things like mental health services. It's been such a success that they've had to create a daily lottery that decides who gets to paint.

SEPTA's Suburban Station is being transformed. Murals are being painted on the walls of the concourse.

"If you're having a bad day, this will brighten up your day," said Darren Fant, who is homeless.

The artists are people with economic insecurities, like Fant.

"I've been homeless about a couple months. I'm trying to do better," he said.

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The opportunity to do better is provided with this unique  program called Color Me Back. It's sponsored by Mural Arts Philadelphia, the Scattergood Foundation and Mental Health Partnerships.

"To transform public space, but more importantly, to transform lives," Jane Golden, with Mural Arts Philadelphia, said of the program's goal.

Participants who paint or learn about art also have interactions with outreach workers.

suburban street mural
Credit: CBS3

In a safe, low-key way, they can get help with housing, employment or mental health services.

"This is a perfect program helps you breath, keeps you from anger and depression," Fant said.

And significantly, participants get paid $50 for three hours of work.

"It's a lot, it's really important," Fant said.

"This is like giving them what they really need in a way that galvanizes them to reconnect with society in a positive way," Sandy Sheller, with the Sheller Foundation, said.

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Sheller came up with the idea. The Sheller Family Foundation is helping fund it, along with the Bara Foundation.

"The art in itself is very healing so many of the participants are saying 'it's given me a voice where I didn't have a voice,'" Sheller said.

Money might be the initial incentive, but beautifying the concourse with art is helping create connections that turn lives around.

"It's helping me to get to where I need to go and to better myself," Fant said.

About 60 people show up everyday hoping to work on the mural. Ten are selected through a lottery. Many have gone on to find permanent employment.

The mural being unveiled tomorrow is the first of many more that are planned.

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