Skilled to Work: New Downtown Rescue Mission initiative aims to help homeless find employment

The Mission held its first career education day on Tuesday.

Posted: May 23, 2019 11:28 AM
Updated: May 23, 2019 7:15 PM

Roughly two dozen people sat attentively in the sanctuary of the Downtown Rescue Mission (DRM) on Tuesday morning.

However, the lessons from the lectern weren’t about spiritual connections. Instead, these sermons were about how to jump into the workforce.

Homeless statistics in north Alabama:*

  • 2019 - 464 total
    • 358 - emergency shelter
    • 19 - transitional housing
    • 87 - unsheltered
  • 2018 - 424 total
    • 283 - emergency shelter
    • 25 - transitional housing
    • 116 unsheltered
  • 2017 - 436 total
    • 283 - emergency shelter
    • 6 - transitional housing
    • 99 - unsheltered
  • 2016 - 385 total
    • 282 - emergency shelter
    • 16 - transitional housing
    • 87 - unsheltered
  • 2015 - 420 total
    • 339 emergency shelter
    • 18 - transitional housing
    • 63 - unsheltered

*Numbers according to the North Alabama Coalition for the Homeless

Lydia Pennington, the Industry Relations Director for the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce discusses some of the resources available from the chamber. Lydia Pennington, the Industry Relations Director for the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce discusses some of the resources available from the chamber.

“It's a great day and something that’s really positive and wonderful that’s happening here at the Downtown Rescue Mission,” said Montroville Williams.

Williams was one of many who is looking for a job and came out on Tuesday to learn more how best to do that.

“To learn about the resources available to the community here. To network with those agencies that are here and to hopefully become gainfully employed. That's the goal,” said Williams.

Back in March, the DRM created a new division designed to connect community resources to those it serves. It's director, Jennifer Geist, said Tuesday’s career education day was a first for them.

She added that educational opportunities like these are key to helping these folks.

“My position was designed to bring community resources here to the mission to help folks develop their skills, increase their education, seek out new employment, help them get identification they needed,” said Geist.

According to the Point-in-Time Count survey done each January by the North Alabama Coalition for the Homeless, the homeless population increased from 424 in 2018 to 464 in 2019.

Of those, 260 identify as male and 204 identify as female.

On Tuesday, several speakers talked about a range of helpful programs and initiatives, like the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce-sponsored Second Chance Job Fair.

WAAY 31 News also shared some insights gathered from employers as a part of this Skilled to Work series.

Natasha Orr with Alabama Career Center Systems said one of the most important tools for people is knowledge.

“There are a lot of different opportunities out here and available. Mainly, I would like to let people know that they have training opportunities available to them that’s free to them,” said Orr.

Geist told WAAY 31 that the DRM will eventually host a job fair aimed at helping the homeless, but said the career education day had a different focus.

“[R]ight now what we want to focus on is making sure that folks have the skills they need to be good candidates for the jobs that are out there. So what this step is, is now we’re going to get them connected with the training programs and development programs and help them with their resumes and job searching.

Meanwhile, Williams said he and others were grateful for the opportunity to learn how best to get back on their feet.

“They're doing lots of things that are continuing to serve the members of this community those unfortunate or less fortunate and I think that is absolutely wonderful,” said Williams.

To learn more about the DRM, click here.

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