Terrance Alston poses in front of a vacant house in Chandler Nov. 1 that he is fixing up. He is one of 925 client success stories St. Joseph the Worker could tell from one year alone. The agency seeks a mobile unit to take its services to more homeless clients seeking employment and stability. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Terrance Alston poses in front of a vacant house in Chandler Nov. 1 that he is fixing up. He is one of 925 client success stories St. Joseph the Worker could tell from one year alone. The agency seeks a mobile unit to take its services to more homeless clients seeking employment and stability. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Terrance Alston works sun up to sun down and he couldn’t be happier. Over and over again, Alston describes himself as incredibly blessed. He transitioned out of homelessness.

He is not in his dream job yet, but Alston is proud of the steps he has taken. He gained sobriety nine years ago. Last year, he began rebuilding his resume and his health.

St. Joseph the Worker

The privately funded agency invites the community to create a future for homeless job-seeking clients “one puzzle piece” at a time. Puzzle pieces are $100 each and will renovate a Mobile Success Unit that will take its services on the road.

To donate toward the project or St. Joseph the Worker’s mission, call (602) 417-9854 or visit:

www.sjwjobs.org

Alston credits St. Joseph the Worker for rallying him through the process. The nonprofit sits on Phoenix’s Human Services Campus and offers resources to help job-seeking clients transition from homelessness to stability. Alston suddenly had access to posted job leads, computers, bus passes, phones and a clothing closet for interviews and jobs.

Five weeks later, a friend got hired preparing wood to become furniture. Alston applied at the same time, but didn’t receive a call back.

“I have the same qualifications as he does,” Alston reminded his prospective employer via phone.

The employer said that if he could get onsite for an application in a relatively short amount of time, the job was his. St. Joseph the Worker connected him to St. Vincent de Paul’s Shifting Gears program. It allows clients in need of transportation for work to receive a free bike.

That’s all it took. Alston got hired and within two months, saved enough money to rent an apartment. He has kept it the last 16 months.

He won’t have it much longer though. He re-established contact with family and is moving to be near them.

“My sister even noticed the change in my demeanor over the phone,” Alston said during a short break from maintenance work on a vacant home in Chandler.

She was so impressed with the transformation — they hadn’t connected in 22 years — that she has a home near hers and a job waiting for him when he returns to Philadelphia Dec. 23. Alston, who has also chased away the threat of diabetes, plans to pursue that job with the idea of medical assistant school on the horizon.

Alston is only one of 925 success stories staff and volunteers at St. Joseph the Worker could tell from the last fiscal year alone. In the first quarter of the current fiscal year, another 725 clients became success stories.

St. Joseph the Worker is eager to produce more. The nonprofit launched a campaign to create a mobile success unit during its 25th anniversary bash Oct. 26. The custom-fit motorhome would bring St. Joseph the Worker’s resources — a computer, resume and interview strategies, clothing and tools for the job — to homeless clients anywhere in the Valley.

Staff sees it as an expansion of services two outreach specialists have been offering at 20 satellite locations for 10 months. They spend the entire workweek on the road helping clients at other homeless and transitional shelters present themselves as employable.

“We have been astounded by the growth and success of our outreach program,” said Brent Downs, executive director of St. Joseph the Worker. “We are on pace for 2,500 new hires in the current fiscal year.”

He said a mobile unit would make outreach efforts more effective. Downs envisions parking the unit in locations such as church parking lots and inviting clients of area agencies to visit. Right now, the outreach specialists borrow space at one agency for as few as eight and as many as 100 clients. Each one waits their turn. It’d be more efficient to have a permanent office set up and clothing closet in the mobile unit that can travel, he said.

Alston hopes it would help with awareness too. St. Joseph the Worker’s resources helped him regain stability just as much as staff encouragement did.

“Even when I did have my job, it seemed things weren’t going fast enough for me,” Alston said, noting his job developer’s advice. “Without him talking to me to keep me focused, I don’t think I would have made it.”

That self-confidence can make all the difference.

“People need to be encouraged because they don’t exactly come in here on a winning streak,” Daren Strunk, an employment outreach specialist said while holding office hours at a transitional facility for recovering addicts.

St. Joseph the Worker also assists inmates transitioning out of prison. Strunk said they all want the fast track to a job. The quickest path he has found requires clients to set aside their ego and sometimes take jobs that are below their capabilities as a stepping stone.

“The toughest part is working with people who have background challenges,” Strunk said, adding that he tells such clients, “You’re just going to have to work harder than other people… and put yourself in the best possible light.”

That’s what St. Joseph the Worker has been helping clients do for 25 years although Strunk downplays the staff’s role.

“The clients do the work. They’re the real heroes. They just need a chance,” Strunk said. “St. Joseph the Worker just gives information to make it happen.”

With a little help from the community to set up the mobile unit, people will see St. Joseph the Worker making it happen all over the Valley for the next 25 years.

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