Out of prison, out of work, and homeless. Abraham Kaulia was incarcerated as a young adult at 23 for robbery and assault. He spent the next 14 years of his life behind bars.
After serving his sentence, Abraham needed a job and fast. He needed shoes, identification, a home address and transportation. He knew, like all of us, that the price of paradise is steep. Finding work is the key to keeping housing. Unemployment, underemployment, and low wages relative to rent can cause homelessness. Even for people who are housed, a missed paycheck or two can bring the household perilously close to homelessness.
For the most vulnerable, it’s a tough situation that seems to be getting tougher. For people like Abraham with a criminal record, or others with spotty and sometimes non-existent work histories, employers do not come knocking. That’s why IHS programming is designed to help tackle the unique barriers hindering success for individuals ready for change.
When Abraham learned about the IHS Hele2Work program, it was a dream come true. This one-stop shop is devoted to getting people workforce ready and employed. The program’s services include free business attire, resume writing help, interview skills, English as a Second Language (ESL) courses, transportation, budgeting courses, and skill development. And little things make a big difference too. Supplemental services like haircuts, bus passes, cell phones, work clothing, and toiletries are critical, along with job coaches who provide ongoing support as clients transition to a new job.
The Hele2Work program also includes pre-vocational training through the Taking Root Urban Agriculture Program and the New Leaf Landscaping and Cleaning Services Training Program. These programs reintroduce homeless clients to necessary job basics, such as problem solving, time management, and teamwork. Urban Agricultural Specialists work with clients to learn aquaponics and hydroponics and how to grow food. The Landscaping and Cleaning Services Training Program allows clients and staff to provide gardening and yard cleanup services as well as assist landlords and homeowners with deep cleaning services, including flooring, kitchens, restrooms, and appliances. The revenue earned goes toward client stipends and goes back into the program to assist clients with job placement.
In order to do all this, IHS depends upon a lot of help from the community. “We always need employer partners who seek workers and people to help with getting clients to appointments including securing identification,” says November Morris, Employment Program Manager who has led the program for the last 13 years. “We also welcome donations of business clothes and people willing to serve as mentors and resume writing coaches.”
Homeless clients actively seeking employment are often able to get hired quickly with the right support, which qualifies them for housing subsidy programs that can end their homelessness more quickly and increase their long-term housing retention.
Today, Abraham has found a place to live in Waipahu that he shares with his girlfriend and has continuous work in construction.