In 2019, Springs Rescue Mission celebrated the birth — and nurtured the growth — of its “Employment Partners” initiative.
Employment Partners are local businesses and public agencies that hire shelter guests and men in the New Life Program (men’s residential addiction recovery) for quality jobs. In exchange for providing well-paying jobs, the businesses receive screened participants who have earned referrals from the Mission’s “Work Initiatives” program, or who have completed certified training.
“Our Employment Partners work with us to help participants overcome barriers to employment, such as past mistakes that otherwise might disqualify them from those jobs,” said program manager Cliff Hunter. “These work environments give our participants the best chance of becoming assets to local businesses. Work helps our participants achieve greater self-sufficiency so they can provide for themselves and contribute to the community.”
To earn a referral, participants must complete one of the Mission’s vocational training programs. The core goal of the program is to provide participants with a pathway to recovery from homelessness and addiction, while also providing partners with long-lasting and hardworking employees.
“Employment plays a vital role in their effort to achieve long-term sobriety,” Cliff said. “A key to the path out of homelessness is a good work opportunity, and our Employment Partners play a vital role in making this possible.”
Before transitioning to the program, participants must display a good attitude and a strong work ethic doing assignments throughout the Mission’s campus, as well as in the surrounding neighborhood.
Last year, SRM fostered the development of new Employment Partner relationships with the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs, the Pikes Peak Workforce Center, Phil Long Dealerships, Cole Promo and many other organizations.
The program is still in its infancy, but Cliff has hopes that the program will teach the Mission — as well as its partners — ways to offer new pathways to long-term success for its participants.
“Our Employment Partners have been willing to work through the ups and downs that come with hiring our participants,” Cliff said. “They are committed to working alongside us and to the long-term success of the people we love and serve.”
Housing and Building Association
Last year, the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs began offering its free 10-week construction training program to guests of the Mission.
To date, eight shelter guests have gone through the “Careers in Construction” program and have since landed good jobs.
“We love the Mission; and anything we can do to help, we’re more than willing to do,” said Eva Jamieson, HBA’s workforce development liaison. “We love to give back and support the under-served.”
Training takes place at The Mill, a large center operated by Peyton and Widefield School Districts. Pike’s Peak Workforce Center and El Paso County government also played instrumental roles in expanding the program.
HBA has now completed its third training since the first group started in the summer. This initiative provides graduates with a pre-apprenticeship certificate recognized by the Department of Labor, plus an OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) certification, which makes them more employable.
Graduates are also given tools, Red Wing work boots and other items to help them start their new jobs on the right foot. But, most importantly, they receive ongoing guidance and support.
“I give them employability training, such as help with their resumes,” Eva said. “I support them, but they need to do the work and get the job.”
This year, Mission staff plans to expand the number of Employment Partners to give SRM participants more opportunities to move out of homelessness.
“We will continue to grow our current Employment Partners program,”’ Cliff said, “and expand it with new businesses and trade associations. We have several promising possibilities that I hope will bear good fruit.”
Phil Long Ford
Phil Long Ford is the newest Employment Partner. The dealership started an automotive technician apprenticeship in its Quick Lane service. At Quick Lane, dealership customers get basic repair and maintenance services, such as tire rotation, oil changes and wiper blade replacement.
New Life Program graduate Alex was the first to receive apprenticeship. He has learned and grown his skills and has been with the company more than six months now.
The program was a collaboration between the Mission, Phil Long and the Department of Corrections. Together, they worked to lower the barriers to employment to provide more opportunities for people recovering from homelessness and addiction to rejoin the workforce.
“We want to provide the opportunity for the homeless who need and want a second chance,” said Gina Sacripanti, director of corporate communications for Phil Long.
The company hopes that, through the program, they will be able to recruit hardworking and long-lasting employees.
“Business is growing, “Gina said. “We’re always looking for good employees. Our philosophy is to invest in people and give them the tools for success.”
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About the Author: Armi Hall began volunteering in May 2019 to support the SRM Work Initiatives program and help more participants find quality jobs. He had worked for 30 years in healthcare marketing in northern Colorado.