Learn how Journey Home in Hartford, Connecticut, helps people in transitional housing prepare for jobs in supply chain logistics and improve their well-being.
Journey Home is bringing people experiencing chronic homelessness to the world of aerospace. At first glance an unlikely marriage between a nonprofit organization and a massive industry, the group’s Aerospace Employment Program has already proven successful. And while it’s not Journey Home’s only effort at job-related assistance, it might be the most unique.
The program is aimed at those who are entering transitional housing and rapid rehousing programs—people who most urgently need to increase their income to be able to begin paying rent and who struggle to do so with minimum wage jobs, says Matthew Morgan, executive director of Journey Home, which serves 30 towns in greater Hartford, Connecticut.
“Sometimes people who have no income are put into entry-level jobs at minimum wage that are still not enough for people to afford their own apartment,” says Morgan. “For those who enter programs or have benefits—food stamps or other kinds of cash assistance—every time they get a raise, their food stamps get cut a little bit, so there’s less incentive or motivation to move up incrementally.”
Using the social enterprise model, applying commercial strategies to improve human and environmental well-being, the Aerospace Employment Program trains people to prepare them for jobs in supply chain logistics, ensuring that parts needed to build planes arrive at the proper manufacturing centers on schedule. Belcan Corporation, which provides staff to engineering, tech, and aerospace companies across the United States and the United Kingdom, has three locations in the greater Hartford area alone, but was outsourcing work to India and asking employees with engineering degrees to complete the logistics tasks. Journey Home suggested they consider growing some jobs locally instead, pointing out that Belcan could easily carve out some of the tasks that were more appropriate to entry-level positions.
The Power of Partnerships
Journey Home’s suggestion didn’t arise out of thin air: Roy Mainelli, an aerospace retiree, had an internship with the organization and conducted a needs assessment among its programs. Given his background and his findings, the idea for the program grew organically and Mainelli’s connections to the industry allowed the project to come together. (He’s now a Journey Home staffer.) Belcan was quick to jump in, drawn in by the chance to help the local community. Journey Home had one specific requirement.
“We basically said, as long as you agree to pay them a living wage, with health care benefits, we’ll have them trained and get them to you,” says Morgan. The training was made possible through a partnership with Goodwin College, an East Hartford career-focused nonprofit institution that offers basic manufacturing coursework and provided Journey Home a “great rate” in light of the program’s population. Local transitional and rapid rehousing agencies were invited to recommend clients who might apply.
Five students were part of the pilot session; 10 students were in the first class, which graduated in December 2014. All of those individuals have or will have jobs with Belcan, and a second class is now enrolled in the Goodwin courses.
One logistical bonus is that all of the jobs are in the Belcan location on the bus line, so transportation hasn’t been an issue. A more meaningful perk is the mentoring between long-time, semi-retired employees and the Aerospace Employment Program hires, allowing the new employees to continue to improve their skill sets long after they have completed the training, and thereby earn promotions and enjoy continued job security.
Morgan says the program will continue as long as there’s funding, which has come through community development block grants.
Other Journey Home Programs
Journey Home has other employment programs, including several initiatives with the American Job Centers to integrate the homeless service system with the employment service system, as well as a reintegration program for veterans experiencing homelessness and job readiness and skill training programs. Staff are also working to implement an SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) plan, building a hybrid model to take advantage of the many area partner agencies. Learn about SAMHSA’s SOAR program.
“If you can find a way to leap out into a living wage job, then you’re much more likely to leave poverty behind you and never become homeless again in the future,” Morgan says.
This article was originally published to highlight the April 2015 theme of Employment.
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