One Step at a Time
Cathy, 27, her fiancé Harold, and their two children have moved at least ten times in the last two years. Motels, family members' places, shelters -- all have been "home" in recent months.
It's not the life she dreams of for herself and her family. But things are looking up. Cathy just got a steady job at Safeway.
"I've never had a real job before. I've worked, but only for temp agencies," she says. "I'm excited to have a career job."
She works in the deli, and loves her interactions with people the most. During the first two months on the job, several customers sent positive comment cards to her boss about what a great help she was.
"I try to always be upbeat and happy," she says with a bright smile. "It takes me away from being homeless and having to worry."
Cathy found the Safeway job through Multi-Service Center's THRIVE program, which helps homeless adults gain employment, often the first step needed before securing stable housing. To supplement her Safeway income, Cathy also works part-time at Burger King as well.
"The program has helped me a lot," Cathy says. "Jim (her case manager) is always advocating for me."
She and Harold, who is also working with THRIVE to find work, and their children, ages 3 and 8, are staying with a family member. Cathy knows it can cause strains in family relationships to have relatives staying indefinitely. That's why the worry of having to leave is never far from her mind. "I'm afraid I'll come home from work one night and we'll have to leave again and have nowhere to go," she says.
"I never bring my home life to work. If I did, I would never make it," she says. "I just walk into work and imagine that I live in a big mansion."
The bravado doesn't last though. She admits she "cries sometimes in the shower" where no one can see her tears.
Her job is a boost to her self-esteem. Cathy is so eager that she wants to learn every department at Safeway. "I hope to stay here for a long time and make it my career. I want to provide for my kids."
Each month, she is closer to her goal of also providing her children a home.
"I don't even know what it would be like to be in our own place," she says. "Oh, we'd be so happy. Hopefully, my time is just around the corner."
Learn more about Multi-Service Center's THRIVE program
Gaining Work Experience
Jacob Wetzel-McCorkle looks comfortable with a computer open on his lap, a tangled mass of colored wires and metal parts all jumbled together inside a big metal box. He fearlessly grasps a screwdriver and starts pulling out pieces, one by one.
At 18, he is already doing something that most people are afraid of screwing up -- rebuilding a computer.
This project was part of a typical day in Jacob’s internship at Geeks@Site, a two-year old computer IT company in Federal Way. The internship, which helped him earn money, while developing marketable skills for the future, was through the Workforce Investment Act’s Out of School Youth program at Multi-Service Center.
The WIA Out of School Youth (WIA OSY) program serves motivated dropouts, ages 16 to 21, who are eager to succeed in their educational and employment goals. MSC helps participants attain their GED or high school completion, providing them with strong job search skills and tools to help find paths of employment.
Jacob dropped out of school in 6th grade because of personal/family issues. He started homeschooling instead, but quickly got behind in schoolwork. He knew he needed a GED to get a decent job, so last year, he enrolled in the out- of-school youth program to get started on his test preparation.
“I wasn’t sure I could do it,” he says. But within a month, he passed all five exams and earned his GED. “I thought that was it, but Cristin, my case manager, said, ‘okay, now let’s find you a job.’”
Computer work seemed a natural fit because Jacob has been working with computers since he was a young kid. “Throughout everything, even when I wasn’t doing school, I repaired computers for family. It’s always been a field of interest for me,” he says.
During his internship Jacob helped the company refurbish computers for re-sale at prices low enough that most families can afford.
Now Jacob works in Multi-Service Center's Food Bank while he prepares to attend college in the near future.
Learn about the Out of School Youth program at Multi-Service Center.
On Her Way Forward
A car accident at age 36 forever altered Liz’s life. The head-on collision smashed her leg and required medication to manage the pain. Soon, she became addicted to prescription painkillers, and to pay for her own habit, began dealing drugs to others. Eventually, she was caught and spent time in prison for her crime.
Now, a participant in Multi-Service Center’s Titusville transitional program, Liz is on a more stable road, getting straight A’s in her classes at Green River Community College, and turning her experiences with drugs and prison into a plan to attend law school and work for social justice and public policy issues.
“I grew up in neighborhoods where there was a lot of homelessness and drugs,” she said. “School didn’t mean anything. I’d like to get in to those places and help with those issues.”
Her commitment to school has already made a critical difference. Recently, out of some 20,000 applicants, Liz won the Martin Achievement Scholarship for the University of Washington. The scholarship will cover her remaining tuition in community college and her years ahead at the UW.
“I can’t believe it. It’s so exciting to get this!” Liz said with a wide smile.
She knows the scholarship committee is taking a chance on giving this award to someone who has been to prison. It helps keep her motivated.
“I’m not only doing well for myself, but also for those who may come after me,” she said.
Liz also works to lift up and inspire other women who live in MSC’s transitional housing in Kent. Up to 15 women live in MSC’s Titusville building, all of them in recovery from drug and alcohol addictions. They live in this dorm-style facility for up to two years while working with an MSC case manager to stabilize their lives and build more solid futures.
Multi-Service Center’s program seems to be a good fit for her.
“MSC has been a big help to me. The agency has really helped me with a variety of wrap-around services so instead of me having to worry about all that stuff, I have a platform to stand on so I can just go forward,” Liz said.
Liz is a long way from the car accident that stopped her in her tracks. Now, she is headed forward into a promising future.
Learn about MSC's Titusville Program.