by Ahren Cassinari-Foster
There are many reasons both individual and systemic why our guests struggle to find jobs, but here are six of the biggest reasons why many of our guests have a difficult time finding satisfying, long-term employment. This is not an exhaustive list, but I hope it opens a window into the reality our guests live with on a day-to-day basis.
1. Incarceration history. Whatever the offense, having a recent criminal charge is a huge disadvantage when searching for employment. Our guests are often faced with a very difficult choice: hide the offense and hope it does not come up in the background check (knowing you will be fired if the offense is discovered) or disclose the offense and hope for an understanding interviewer/HR department.
2. Gaps in employment. For a wide variety of reasons, many of our guests have significant gaps in their work history. These gaps are quite challenging to explain in an interview, complicate the process of resume –writing, and sometimes raise real concerns on the part of hiring managers.
3. Storage. In my experience, not many people have thought about how a lack of proper storage can cost someone a job. If a guest is carrying all of her worldly goods around in a pack, what is she supposed to do when it comes time to interview? Does she leave the pack in a park? With a friend? Carry the pack to the interview and hope for the best?
4. Lack of educational opportunities. Many of our guests have a fairly limited educational background and have not had ready access to the education and training that opens doors to higher-paying, stable jobs. The lack of stability in both living situation and income that many of our guests live with makes the idea of completing a two semester course in arc welding at a local tech school a seemingly impossible dream.
5. Access to hygiene items and interview clothing. Living outside, or in a shelter that is not a large upgrade over the street, affords people few opportunities to groom themselves on a regular basis. Most people do not feel confident approaching a job search when they are unable to bathe on a regular basis and have no access to interview clothing.
6. Limited access to computers. Many people in today’s world can take for granted 24/7 access to the technology they need to communicate, work, connect with friends, and do so many other things . The vast majority of our guests do not have anything close to that level of access to computers, smart phones, or tablets. They can access the internet on a restricted basis only when the local library has a free computer or one of the few computers in their shelter or transitional housing facility is available for use.
Despite these challenges, many of our guests do find jobs! I am continuously challenged and inspired by folks who, despite a long list of setbacks and roadblocks, find a way to make their job search work through their determination and focus.
To learn more about our Main Frame Job Readiness program and the ways it helps remove these barriers, click here.