At Housing Forward, the Prevail program offers employment readiness programs for ex-offenders, those touched by homelessness and others who need help entering the workforce.  Romiesha Tucker, Prevail’s program manager, says one of the first steps is pairing participants with skills-based volunteers. 

“We have former recruiters, teachers, human resource people, and former hiring managers. If a participant is on probation or has any convictions, we have a lawyer they can work with. The first meeting is just a getting to know you meeting, getting to know your story. At the second meeting we go over goals, and then we go from there.”

A big topic is resumes. Volunteers can help edit resumes if participants already have one in place, or they can help clients create a resume. Tucker notes that for many clients, this step involves giving them the skills to create their own resumes, from computer knowledge to how to write up experiences. 

Volunteers help clients conduct job searches and also prepare for them for interviews via mock interviews and working on phone interview skills.  While Housing Forward does not provide job placement, Tucker says they take steps to help clients make good contacts.

“We establish relationships with employers who are willing to work with our clientele, whether they are older applicants, homeless or ex-offenders. We might work with Felony Franks or Christy Webber of Webber Landscaping. Christy is great because she understands the background of drug abusers. She started her own business and hires year-round workers. This is great because our clients don’t need temporary jobs. They need sustainability going forward, a way to pay the rent.”

In addition to the skills-based volunteer hours which are held Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, Housing Forward offers a computer lab and the aid of an AmeriCorps volunteer who can help walk-ins with job-related computer work. Tucker emphasizes, “It’s a job to find a job. We encourage a person to submit at least 10 applications a day.”

For a more intense program, Housing Forward offers its Career Passport Program, which runs four days a week, five hours a day for five weeks. Aimed at clients who have been in one of Housing Forward’s shelters, it is an intensive way to address barriers that homeless people have in finding employment. 

Through all of its employment readiness programs, Housing Forward integrates with other programming in the office because the clients who seek help finding a job often need assistance in other areas. The Emergency Assistance Program helps clients who need help with getting an ID, face eviction or need bill payment plans. The Homeless Prevention Hotline also overlaps with job readiness because employment is a key to sustainability. Housing Forward also works to provide referrals to NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) or rehabilitation services for clients who have mental or physical health issues that need to be resolved.

Resources Workforce Re-Entry

Westside Health Authority
Website: www.healthauthority.org/initiatives/employment-services/
Address: 5417 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60651
Phone: (773) 378-1878  

The Rescue Foundation
Website: www.therescuefoundation.org

Housing Forward Employment Readiness Program
Website: www.housingforward.org
Phone: (708) 338-1724
(888) 338-1744 (toll free)

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