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Technology and connection to the internet has become a huge part of most everyone’s lives, with only 11% of the American population not using the internet.

What used to be considered a “luxury” expense has now become a necessity.

There are many variables and barriers that can determine whether people have access to technology, but no one can deny that having that access has many different benefits.

Here are just a few ways that technology can benefit homeless and low income individuals:

Contact with family and friends

For many people in the homeless community, family and old friends live in different parts of the country. Technology like social media, email, and basic messaging apps allow for communication with those people which lowers feelings of isolation 

Potential job opportunities

Finding potential job opportunities in today’s society can be a challenge without technology. Most organizations post about their job openings online and even ask for applications and resumes to be sent through online correspondence. This is a huge step in ending the homelessness cycle.

Finding resources

Just like with job opportunities, many resources available to help people are posted online. Having access to technology can help those in need to find shelter, hot meals, showers, and many other basic human needs.

Apps are being developed to also help in finding resources. The apps include lists of necessities, where to go to receive the items/services, maps of various service locations, and contact information.

Staying up to date on news

Staying connected with news sources can be essential for many reasons. One major reason is to make sure certain areas are safe to be around. If an area is unsafe, all peoples need to be informed in order to get away from the situation. It can also keep people updated with new policies that could potentially affect their lives. Everyone has a right to know what is going on in the world around them.

Thrive DC strives to help our clients every way we possibly can.

That is why we have a computer lab available to anyone in the community who may not otherwise have readily available access to the internet or who need assistance with employment readiness. The lab is open every week day from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Clients can sign up for hour time slots at 8:30 a.m. during morning programming. The last two hours of the computer lab program are reserved for women only.

Each week, the lab is reserved Tuesday and Thursday from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. for the Employment Workshop. This is a time for clients to get one-on-one help with writing resumes and cover letters, completing job applications, and searching for job opportunities.

For more information on how you can volunteer with the Employment Workshop, check out our volunteer page!

By Cayley, Development & Communications Intern at Thrive DC

Cayley is a senior at Oklahoma State University studying Agricultural Communications. She has a passion for helping others and hope her words can inspire others to feel the same.

A recent study done by the Prison Policy Initiative shows that formerly incarcerated people are 10 times more likely to be homeless and some demographics are at an even higher risk; people who have been incarcerated multiple times, people recently released from prison, and people of color and women.

A vicious cycle in homelessness all starts with incarceration. Returning citizens often times have difficulty securing a job and housing after they are released due to stigma and systemic barriers. When they try to find shelter in other ways they are often arrested again for public loitering.

D.C. has the highest incarceration rate in the country, one out of 50 people are incarcerated.  Since 2001, the number of women arrested has increased by 19 percent. Releases have increased, but once someone becomes incarcerated their chance of becoming homeless increases as well.

In the PPI study, four recommendations regarding to policy are given as a way to end this cycle:

  1. States should have systems in place to help released individuals a fair chance at finding housing.
  2. Protect individuals from being immediately excluded by their record. Instead, evaluate each applicant as an individual.
  3.  Stop categorizing homelessness as a crime.
  4. Expand social services to assist individuals in becoming successful returning citizens.

Here at Thrive DC, we believe re-entry programs are vital to helping individuals get back on their feetespecially women. In a recent study, 45.6% of incarcerated women in D.C. said they had at least a high school education. In another study, 40% of women in prisons had no job prior to being incarcerated. Most who had a job never made above $6.50 an hour.

Thrive DC is dedicated to helping individuals overcome this cycle.

The New Directions Re-entry Program assists people who are formerly incarcerated get back on track in five key components: Case Management, Basic Needs Assistance, Life Skills Education, Access to Sobriety Maintenance Assistance and Support, and Employment Assistance.  

Within the Employment Assistance component, clients are able to take part in one of two sub- programs: Customer Service Training and Certification or Real Opportunity Job Training. Both options give clients work experience and knowledge about certain career fields that boost their chances of being hired full time. In addition, clients gain support in their journey to integrating back into their community which is critical to success.

By Cayley, Development & Communications Intern at Thrive DC

Cayley is a senior at Oklahoma State University studying Agricultural Communications. She has a passion for helping others and hope her words can inspire others to feel the same.

Mr. Jones and I spent 20 minutes painstakingly filling out an job application online. He listed every past employer in his life (which totaled only two, because he’d worked for his family business for forty years until the store was forced to close).

There was just one last question that stood between him and stocking pet food in the middle of the night: “Can we check your credit history?” The question made him hesitate, because past medical expenses had ruined Mr. Jones’s credit and he was afraid this would make him a weak candidate.

He clicked “No” and was immediately kicked out of the application process.

To say that applying for a minimum wage job is tedious and personally invasive is an understatement. I have been shocked at how much sensitive information is being asked of Thrive DC’s clients. They frequently have to give their social security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, reference phone numbers and more, just to add their resume to the countless other resumes these chain companies receive for each opening.

But the most frustrating part of volunteering with the employment program is knowing that nearly all of these men have a strong work ethic and employment history; their greatest obstacle is simply their lack of computer skills.

There are virtually no jobs today that one can apply for without a computer. The absence of computer skills means it generally takes a client almost twice as long as someone else to apply online. Not owning a computer also means that clients have to use public computer labs: which is helpful and frustrating at the same time since they’re often limited to just an hour each session.

In addition to struggling with technology and invasive questions, there are simple logistics Thrive DC’s clients have to overcome that make it really hard to work, such as: a lack of transportation, a lack of a professional wardrobe, lack of child care, and especially lack of a college degree.

Nearly every employer wants their employees to have a college degree regardless of the skill level needed to perform the job.

Despite the long odds, I’m happy to have been a part of many success stories with the employment program. At least half of the clients ultimately find employment thanks to the support of their case manager and the other volunteers in the computer lab.

Besides – it’s all worth it when a client tells you with a BIG smile that he’s finally got a new job!

Angel had second thoughts the first time he walked into Thrive DC.

“Initially, I thought Thrive DC was too rough for me. I didn’t feel like someone who belonged here. But then a staff member came over to welcome me and gave me a sandwich. He actually ended up giving me three sandwiches so I would be OK after I left.

“That sandwich meant everything to me. I had no money and no place to go. That sandwich said ‘don’t give up, stay strong.’”

Angel needed help finding employment. He was living in a friend’s closet paying $200/month just to have someplace to sleep at night. But Thrive DC was able help him out with a job right away. Less than a week after Angel came looking for help he was set up with a job at a local grocery store.

“At first it was very good, easy work with a lot of hours. Then they started giving me less, first 30, then 20 hours. And you can’t live on that.”

Angel respectfully let Thrive DC know that he was going to quit his job, and went to a friend with a painting company for work. When there was work to do it was a good arrangement; but every day was a risk that he might not get a call, or the job wouldn’t be big enough to pay his bills.

Eventually he ran out of options and came back to Thrive DC.

This time things were different. Angel came looking for help right when a position was opening up at the International Monetary Fund for cleaning work. The Thrive DC staff was impressed with Angel’s drive and demeanor, and immediately recommended him for the position. After a formal interview process and background check Angel was hired!

“I made so many mistakes, so many. But now I have this chance and am going to do the right thing.”

Angel’s just started his new job and will be making $15/hr with benefits. He plans to stay in the small one-bedroom apartment he’s been renting now for a year and save up money. Angel has a plan, and never wants to worry about becoming homeless ever again.

“I am grateful to Thrive DC so much. The staff here is very open with me, very clear about what I need to do to get a job. I am so thankful to everyone I worked with, and I would tell anyone who needs help to come here, to people who really care about you and can help you.”

Charlie's Story

When Charlie lost his job he knew exactly where to go.

Charlie was born and raised in the District, and he’s known about Thrive DC ever since it was called the “9:30 Club” downtown because it served breakfast at 9:30 AM. Whenever he was down, hungry, or lost his ID, Thrive DC was there as a place he could count on.

This time was no different.

The day after he lost his job Charlie was at Thrive DC asking about the employment program. He was there every day working with our job coaches to set up an email and rebuild his resume.

While he was here, Thrive DC’s emergency services kept him going. Services like meals and grocery bags helped him stretch out a thin budget until he could get back to work.

“You know, tomorrow’s not promised to anyone. When I lost my job I never missed a beat, I was always at Thrive DC...It’s real frustrating not to be working, but I told myself I’m just going to do the best I can today. I’m too hungry; I’m going to do whatever it takes to get back on top.”

Between Charlie’s determination and his job coaches at Thrive DC, the hard work paid off. Less than two months after losing his job Charlie was hired full-time for his first ever supervisor position! Not only did Charlie bounce back from unemployment, he’s now doing better than ever.

“Ya’ll are a great organization,” Charlie said when asked about Thrive DC. “If you need real, true help…Thrive DC got it.”

Eight months ago Antoinette moved from New York City to Washington, DC to be with her boyfriend. But life here was difficult without a job and without any prospects to get a job.

She went to Skyland Workforce Center hoping to get help, and that’s where she found Thrive DC. With encouragement from Thrive DC’s Employment Specialist, Antoinette applied for the Real Opportunity program and was accepted.

Antoinette enjoyed everything about the program, which gave her extra incentive to get up early each day so she could make the trip from Anacostia.

The Real Opportunity Training Program was a great learning experience for Antoinette, exposing her to new cooking techniques and practices she’d never considered, everything from managing a pantry and rotating stock to the different kinds of cuts for meat. But what she learned most was to have patience…with others and with herself.

Antoinette drew strength from the people around her – the Thrive DC staff, her instructors, and her fellow program participants. The spirit of cooperation and respect was something she hadn’t planned on, but was incredibly thankful for.

Once Antoinette was placed at Dos Gringos for her externship, her learning continued. From chopping ingredients to stocking shelves and washing dishes, Antoinette gained experience in all aspects of the kitchen. She impressed her manager at the restaurant so much that once her externship was over she was asked to continue – as a paid employee!

Antoinette now feels more stable and looks forward to someday becoming a chef and perhaps owning her own business. She hopes to one day help others who are in situations similar to hers because: “If you’re going to take, you’ve got to be willing to give.”

A Job Training Program That Works

Want more information on Thrive DC's Real Opportunity Training Program? Click the link to learn more about our comprehensive program supporting people out of homelessness.

More Stories of Hope

If you like this story, you might also enjoy reading about Dalton and Jeffrey.

Dalton liked to cook. That’s why he was so excited to hear about culinary training programs that could help him get back on his feet.

After leaving incarceration three years ago, Dalton struggled with homelessness and finding a job. He tried everything but kept running into a wall. What kept him going, however, was six words:

“Change I must, or die I will.”

“I just had to hold it together,” he said. “Lots of prayer.”

Dalton had heard about two programs he could try: one at Central Union Mission and the other at Thrive DC. He didn’t know which one he wanted to do, but he decided that he would choose based on how the food was at each place.

He went to Central Union Mission and thought their food was OK. But when he came to Thrive DC he thought: “Wow. They were working hard.”

Dalton was blown away by how full Thrive DC was all the time and how much people kept coming back for the food. He knew he wanted to go where people took pride in the work they were doing.

“I haven’t had people like Chef Terrence in my life. I made a good, conscious decision to pursue my career here and I’m so thankful of that.”

Thrive DC’s Real Opportunity Training Program is six months long and hard work, but Dalton was glad to be working. It helped keep him busy, helped him not to focus on his past incarceration or not having a home of his own to go back to.

“I ended up here as a result of committing to change. I really wanted to learn what these people had to offer, and I think I accomplished that.”

After six months, Dalton finally graduated. He took with him a great reference from his externship at Amsterdam Falafel, and is currently looking forward to passing his SafeServ certification and getting his Culinary Arts degree from Stratford University.

“I’m not quite finished yet. This is my new start!”

A Job Training Program That Works

Want more information on Thrive DC's Real Opportunity Training Program? Click the link to learn more about our comprehensive program supporting people out of homelessness.

More Stories of Hope

Enjoyed reading about Dalton's success? You might also like Jeffrey's and Antoinette's story.

Jeffrey was homeless and needed help when he heard about Thrive DC. He needed a place that would enhance his skill set and give him a real chance at steady employment - something that would not just to sustain him but also help him reach his ambitions to be a manager.

He needed a place that would take the time to invest in him. There were lots of programs that were 6 – 8 weeks long, but it seemed like as soon as you started you were walking out the door.

That’s when Jeffrey heard about Thrive DC.

He was at Bread for the City when they gave him a referral to our Real Opportunity Training Program. At first he was unsure; while he wanted a better training program, Thrive DC’s was six months long and much more dense and challenging.

Ultimately though, the program was everything he was looking for:

“When I first came to Thrive DC, I was uncertain because I didn’t know a lot about the program. Now, Thrive DC is a place I would recommend. All the different programs Thrive DC has to enhance lifestyles are great and the staff is really professional. This has been an intense and gratifying program.”

Jeffrey is currently finishing his externship at Open City in Woodley Park and is under consideration for employment there. But after his time in the Real Opp program, Jeffrey also has a new dream.

“I want to return the favor for what Thrive DC has done for me. I’m working on getting my business license so that I can teach others about sanitation, knife work, and all of the skills you need when working in this industry. I want to be a food service consultant and train people in the private sector.”

When asked what he had learned through the Real Opp program, Jeffrey had just one thing to say:

“I have learned that you can always get what you want through hard work. You’re going to have challenges, but you have to work through them.”

“It was worth it.”

A Job Training Program That Works

Want more information on Thrive DC's Real Opportunity Training Program? Click the link to learn more about our comprehensive program supporting people out of homelessness.

More Stories of Hope

If you like this story, you might also enjoy reading about Dalton and Antionette.

“I’d never actually completed anything in my life before.”

The deck was stacked against Roxann. A high school dropout, she had turned to drugs and had spent time in prison. She found herself in transitional housing with no job – or prospects for a job. She wanted to get her life back on track, but the odds weren’t in her favor.

Fortunately, Roxann’s case manager knew about Thrive DC and suggested that she check out our Real Opportunity culinary arts training program. The thought of an intensive six-month program was daunting though: “I’d never actually completed anything in my life before" said Roxann.

It wasn’t easy for Roxann, beginning with creating her resume. “I never learned how to use a computer. It was so frustrating.” But Thrive DC’s staff helped her every step of the way. Learning skills in our kitchen was easier for Roxann, and at times more meaningful.

When the Real Opportunity participants helped serve the breakfast they’d just prepared, Roxann would look at who she was serving and think, “It wasn’t long ago that that was me.”

Finally, Roxann’s externship at Open City made her feel good about getting up and going to work. It gave her a sense of purpose, especially since she hadn’t held a job in over 15 years. The Open City staff welcomed her with open arms. She felt supported. And when Roxann, who is also a breast cancer survivor, needed time off for doctors appointments, Open City’s Chef Carlos made sure she could take the time.

Roxann has been drug free for three years and has high hopes for the future. When asked at her Real Opportunity graduation ceremony what was next for her, she took the question quite literally and said, “I’m leaving here to go enroll in night school to finish high school.” After that, Roxann plans to give back, to help those who are homeless and struggling just like she was.

"The more serious I got, the more people wanted to help me."

Two years ago Kennie Brown’s father passed away, and then he lost his job. He was staying with his cousin, but after Kennie started spiraling downwards his cousin kicked him out. He became homeless.

“He saw me drinking all the time, doing drugs, and he wasn’t having it. He kicked me out when he saw I wasn’t serious about getting my life together.”

It was a year of staying in and out of the 801 East homeless shelter before Kennie heard about Thrive DC. A friend of his at the shelter told him about the Real Opportunity program, how Thrive DC would pay a small stipend while they trained you to be a chef.

At first Kennie was only interested in the money part, but once he got in the program he started to see the kind of opportunity it was.

“Seeing how serious everyone else was made me serious. At first I wanted to be a part of the program for the money, but after I saw how valuable the experience could be I wanted the program for myself.”

Kennie was just one of three Real Opp trainees to make it through a grueling six month program. But it paid off. He now has a full-time job at Jamba Juice, has a steady place to stay with his brother and a friend, is living clean, and is less than two months away from having enough saved up to move into a place of his own and being financially sustainable.

“The more serious I got, the more people wanted to help me. My advice to people who want to join the Real Opp program is to take everything seriously. This program can make or break you, but if you can do it the right way, you can be a success story.”

1525 Newton St NW
Washington, DC 20010
(202) 737-9311

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