SHA Job Club helps residents find employment
Damoniqua Brathwaite didn’t have high hopes when she joined the Job Club at Robinson Gardens Apartments. But the frustration of several months without work drove her to the weekly meetings at the Springfield Housing Authority family development in the Pine Point neighborhood.
The Job Club, an informal group launched this fall ago SHA’s Resident Services Department, helps residents prepare, hunt, and find jobs. So successful has it been that plans are underway to expand it to other developments.
For Brathwaite, the club brought quick success: She landed a job after just four of the weekly meetings.
“I’m very fortunate, because I not only found a job, I found the exact job I wanted,” said Brathwaite, who is now working as an information technology support technician at a local non-profit agency.
Brathwaite is one of two Job Club members who found work within weeks of attending the sessions. Vanessa Rodriguez is now working as a front desk receptionist at a health center in Holyoke, and loving it.
“It’s good,” said Rodriguez, who is the mother of a young daughter.
“The group really helped a lot. At first I was hesitant, but it was so helpful. They gave us helpful hints, job leads and just the confidence that you need when you’re out there job hunting,” she said. “I’m super happy.”
Resident Services Director Pamela Wells said the Job Club began as an idea for Housing First, the federally-funded program that helps homeless families find housing and get the support they need to make the transition successful. Wells said she and her staff instantly saw the benefits – and popularity – of the Job Club, and opened it up to all Robinson Gardens residents.
“We talk about resume writing, we actually help them look for jobs,” explained Wells. “We give them tasks every week, things to do in between the meetings so when we do get together, everyone has a focus and things to talk about.”
Wells and Housing First Supervisor Magda Rodriguez help to run the weekly sessions, which draw several participants each week. Both women try to bring in ideas for jobs that are available and suited to particular Job Club members. They also talk about applying for jobs, following up, and being ready for interviews, which can make the bravest hesitant.
The meetings serve to inform as well as to support those who participate, Wells noted.
“We’re finding that this motivates them and helps build their confidence. They don’t get all discouraged when they don’t get a job right away. It takes time, and we’re working together,” Wells said.
Indeed, Rodriguez and Brathwaite said the support they got at the meetings proved invaluable.
“On my own, it was a lot harder,” Brathwaite explained.
“When you’re on your own and you’re looking for a job and you don’t get it, it brings you down. You start thinking maybe it’s never going to happen. This helped me to work harder on my goals, and not to get so discouraged when they didn’t happen right away,” she said.
Wells said the SHA is looking into ways to bring the Job Club to other housing developments across the city.
“We’d love to expand it,” Wells said. “It has the potential to be really good for a lot of people.”
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