May 25, 2011

Prep For Success: from the shelter to the job

We recently heard from Bread for the City’s new job developer, Malton Edwards. Malton has been working in our Pre-Employment Program, working entirely with residents of Wards 7 and 8, where the unemployment rates are some of the highest in the nation.

We’re pleased to report great results!

Out of eight students in our last PEP program, we’ve already helped six find jobs. (That may not seem like a big number, but given how challenging our job market is here -- and how many challenges our clients face along the way -- it’s no small feat.) And under Malton's leadership, this program is already doubled in size, with an all-time high of 16 students in its newest class.

Let’s take a look at one of PEP’s recent success stories: Eric Dyer.

Eric is a 46-year-old native Washingtonian. He used to work in utilities, and also has experience as a mechanic. But he lost his job years ago, and eventually his home. He kept trying to get his life back on track -- with little to show for it.

“I took a few job training programs,” Eric says. “But they just give you the classes and once you’re done, that’s that. It’s over.” And that wasn’t enough.

Eric didn’t even have proper shoes, for instance. And that’s what brought him to Bread for the City.

“I came here in search of clothes,” Eric recalls. “I saw a flyer for the Pre-Employment Program and was initially a little skeptical, because I’d just completed the computer training course and it didn’t get me anywhere. But Stacey [Smith, a Bread for the City social worker] came to talk to me and I decided to do the program.”

“At first,” Eric says, “PEP seemed to be about real basic stuff. Eventually I realized that these were, you know, big questions. Not just ‘how do you go walking down the street looking for jobs?’ but ‘what do you need to get it done?’ ‘How do you feel about yourself?’ ‘What will it take to get you where you want to be?’”

PEP classes are two days a week, with a group of about 10 or 15 people who are learning the life skills that they need to be ready for employment. This personal development is incorporated with our comprehensive services, as we make sure that our participants can address their myriad challenges at once.

“It was a really different experience for me,” says Eric. “For one, there were small things like bus tokens. That makes a huge difference in me being able to stick with it all the way through, every time. Otherwise, how would I be able to get there? Other programs, maybe you get one farecard and that’s it. If you’re not able to take every step along their certain path on your own, you can slip through their cracks. You’ll get something like ‘I’m sorry, we can’t help you with that.’”

“But you need all kinds of means to get up from the bottom,” says Eric. “And Bread can help you get it covered.”

In the course of PEP, Eric acquired the clothes, customs, and even simple confidence that he’d need to get a job.

“It’s been awesome to see Eric’s success,” says Stacey Smith. “It’s a transformation. He comes in here from the homeless shelter, he shaves and puts on a suit and tie and heads out with a Blackberry like a professional. It’s like Clark Kent to Superman.”

Even with this transformation, however, getting a job can still require a lot of support. Among other places, Eric applied for a cook position at the Hard Rock Cafe; when he called back to inquire about it, however, they told him that that they couldn’t find his application.

“In the past, that would have been it - end of story. But Malton followed up with me and then followed up with them and made sure that I was right where I needed to be.”

And surely enough, Eric now has a job at the Hard Rock Cafe.

“It’s long and hard and my feet are sore. It’s hard to work such long hours into the night when you’re staying in a shelter, especially because come 7am you have to leave the shelter. So that’s hard. But Melissa Mitchell is now helping me search for housing, and she’s helping me find educational resources.”

We’re excited to see all the progress yet to come from Eric, our other PEP participants, and our job development program as a whole. And we need your support to help this program thrive! PEP is looking for mentors to work closely with PEP participants in their job readiness training -- contact Stacey Smith (ssmith [at] breadforthecity [dot] org) to learn more.

And PEP is still not a fully-funded Bread for the City program! Your donation will make a huge difference as we engage in this transformative work -- so give today.

1 comment:

LeBeau-Richman said...

What an inspiring story! I can understand why potential program participants would be skeptical of PEP if they were in other programs that fell short of providing all the necessary tools to help them find a job. It sounds like Bread for the City has all the logistics worked out and that the organization provides all the support needed. Keep up the good work and congrats to Eric and all the other clients!