Over the past few months, I’ve had the good fortune to attend several events discussing the impact of trauma and poverty, and all its ramifications. My work with the Goodwill Workforce Connection Center Community Access Points is focused on helping people gain employment. But when individuals face homelessness or other aspects of trauma, getting a job is an even more difficult task. The path for any job seeker is daunting; yet when you combine episodes of domestic abuse, not knowing if you will have a place to sleep or clothing for an interview, the challenges seem insurmountable. Fortunately, there are several community agencies addressing these needs.
I was very intrigued when I saw a report about tutors going to laundromats in large cities to bring instruction to the people “where they are at.” That term seems to be coming up more often, and I’ve heard it repeated now with several organizations.
About a month ago, I attended a Summit on Poverty co-sponsored by SDC and Marquette University, and four judges conducted one of the workshops I attended. I am unfamiliar with the court system and have no knowledge of judge’s philosophies. So, I was encouraged to hear a new approach that they have developed with certain courts and offenders by framing things in this context: We talk to them for what happened to them, not what’s wrong with them. For the judges, another form of meeting people “where they are at.” It’s a very progressive approach to improving an overcrowded system and making improvements so citizens and families can make progress as productive members of the community.
Libraries have been playing an ever-increasing role as a home within communities to offer all sorts of resources to their neighborhoods. Over the past few years, the Goodwill Workforce Connection Centers have developed a partnership with the Milwaukee Public Library Central Branch, holding recruitment events for job seekers to meet them “where they are at.”
The Goodwill Workforce Connection Centers have four Milwaukee area locations, however not everyone can physically reach those centers. Lack of transportation, poor public transit routes, day care needs and additional impediments, hold them back.
So, meet them “where they are at” has resonated with our efforts in helping job seekers. Three years ago, we became one of the co-located partners at Sojourner Family Peace Center. We have a staff member who spends about eight hours a week at The Guest House of Milwaukee. And a few months back, I began spending one day a week at the Milwaukee Public Library, downtown branch, to meet directly with clients.
The partnership we have formed with the Milwaukee Public Library helps people quite literally “where they are at.” With our web-based career portal and one-on-one support, job seekers now have guidance and direction to assist them in securing jobs and gain a good, solid footing. I’m meeting and working with individuals where they are at this juncture in their lives, most of whom are experiencing some very difficult circumstances. However, with a commitment of time and effort, we are helping them take the proper next steps for successful employment.