Since 1921, Millionair Club Charity (MCC) has operated a supportive employment program to help those who are homeless or living in poverty, like Justin Butler, get back on their feet by connecting them to job opportunities.
The Puget Sound region in Washington is booming – and many come here seeking economic opportunities. While it may seem that jobs are readily available, many people face insurmountable barriers to stable employment and in turn, secure and stable housing.
Justin Butler was one of many people who moved to the area with high hopes for a job, but with the lack of a support system after moving here from Arizona, he found himself homeless.
Without many options, Justin was able to renew his hopes for the future when he came to the MCC. He is now employed full time with the Metropolitan Improvement District in Downtown Seattle on their safety team and is working toward his long-term goals.
“I figure I’ll keep this job for a couple years,” Butler said. “I’m hoping it will help me earn the money I need to go to school. I want to be a registered nurse.”
An ever-growing number of people in the Puget Sound region are facing homelessness, or on the verge of losing stable housing. According to the 2017 All Home King County “Count Us In” Report, 11,643 people are experiencing homelessness, and 30 percent of those counted said they were homeless because they had lost their job.
MCC’s supportive employment program weaves a unique web of services around each individual along their path to long-term goals. Workers and community members in need can come to MCC for nutritious meals, showers, laundry services, free cell phones, lockers and even free prescription eyeglasses. Once they receive the services they need to get job ready, they can also participate in workshops on resume writing, budgeting, interpersonal communications, get special job licenses such as a Food Worker Card and work-appropriate clothing.
“Our services are tailored to help people with little or no resources,” said Angele Leaptrot, Senior Director of Programs at MCC. “If someone is willing to work, we try to give them all the tools they need to reach their short- and long-term goals.”
Over 1,100 workers are currently working with residential homeowners as well as commercial businesses. Jobs vary from yard work and moving assistance to working concessions at CenturyLink Field and Events Center.
Both workers and the broader community in need have access to vital support services, such as a vision clinic, a meals program, showers and laundry at MCC.
Around 70 percent of workers in MCC’s program are currently homeless, with an additional 8 percent currently couch surfing or living in temporary shelters. That percentage has greatly increased over the years, and lead to a natural partnership with United Way of King County to expand outreach services to those experiencing homelessness.
The Jobs Connect program was created in 2016 to improve outreach to unsheltered individuals and reduce barriers to employment that they face. United Way of King County provided a 16-passenger van to help transport unsheltered workers to and from jobs, as well as funded lockers to be installed at MCC so they could store their belongings during the work day.
“We’re building a community where people have homes, students graduate, and families are financially stable,” said Sara Levin, vice president of community outreach at United Way of King County. “Folks can be successful when they have the tools they need and as a result, the whole community benefits.”
That passenger van currently takes a group of workers to the Ballard neighborhood in North Seattle twice per week to assist with neighborhood beautification. Workers are assisting Ballard businesses and residents with keeping the neighborhood safe and enjoyable for all. One of the most ambitious projects has been removing the buildup of posters from electrical poles. It may not sound like a big deal, but it can take six hours to remove the hundreds of layered posters around the poles.
"Our partnership with MCC represents a unique opportunity for the Ballard Alliance to not only enhance our neighborhood through regular sidewalk cleaning, it allows us to leverage our resources to help those in need find employment and the skills training required to advance their lives," said Ballard Alliance Executive Director Mike Stewart.
Meet Carl Anderson. Although Carl is homeless, he can utilize the Jobs Connect program services available as an MCC worker, to work Fridays and Mondays cleaning streets for the Ballard Alliance. Carl enjoys his work with the Ballard Alliance, as it’s a steady job that gives him the opportunity to know his schedule and work year-round. Carl also gets the opportunity to meet new people every day, including business owners and residents who appreciate his efforts to help clean up their neighborhood. He’s also been able to receive free bifocal eyeglasses from the MCC Vision Clinic, which enables him to see well while he’s on the job.
Tammy Cable, MCC’s Jobs Connect Supervisor, has worked with Carl for just over a year. “One thing I appreciate about Carl is his attitude and determination to get the job done,” Tammy said. Thanks to the Jobs Connect program partnership with United Way and MCC employer Ballard Alliance, Carl is on a path to more stability and self-sufficiency.
Kjerstin Wood is the Communications Manager with the Millionair Club Charity. Rebuilding lives, one job at a time. Jobs Connect, United Way.