Today’s Read: What It’s Like to be Homeless and Hunting for a Job

Finding employment can be arduous in the best circumstances, but for the near-record number of homeless adults bedding down in NYC shelters, the job search process is particularly challenging. Contrary to misleading stereotypes, the vast majority of homeless New Yorkers who are able to work do want to find employment – and in fact, about a third of homeless families include someone who is already working but still cannot afford rent.

Recognizing that obtaining stable, living-wage employment is essential to achieving self-sufficiency and ongoing economic security, the Coalition’s First Step Job Training Program helps homeless and low-income women overcome barriers to employment through an intensive, 14-week curriculum. Each year, we equip approximately 140 women with the foundational skills and support they need to excel in the workplace by offering over 100 hours of computer instruction, literacy workshops, communication and interpersonal skills development, and other hands-on activities. A key component of First Step is the internship phase, in which students get first-hand professional experience by working for major corporations or non-profit organizations.

If you have questions about First Step or if you would like to sign up for an Informational Session, please call 212-776-2074.

Thanks to First Step’s comprehensive approach, many graduates have succeeded in obtaining full-time employment. Others are still persistently searching for jobs with the help of our partner agency Madison Strategies. First Step graduate Lily Grays recently discussed her job search challenges with Jennifer Weiss for the site Moneyish. Her inspiring determination is sure to pay off soon:

Unemployed since losing her job at an elevator company last June, [Lily] Grays was also homeless until late last month and living in a shelter near the East River waterfront in Lower Manhattan.

At the shelter, she shared a room with four other women and stored her belongings, including interview clothes, in a cabinet beside her bed.

“My day-to-day is interview, job search, interview, job search,” she said.

Grays is looking for a job as an administrative assistant or customer service rep and has experience with office, catering, hospital and call center work and training as a paralegal. She has been on both sides of a resume critique and said her own resume has been revamped at least 30 times.

She says she hopes to get back to an office environment and the chance to work with people. If she can be part of a company that helps people, even better.

“I just love knowing that I’m doing something,” she said. “I feel useful and feeling useful is good.”

Her search has been helped by the Coalition for Homeless Services’ First Step Job Training Program and Madison Strategies, both of which offer workshops, networking and career development services. She recently completed an internship with Workforce1, a city staffing and recruitment agency.