We're certainly starting the year off with a bang at Friendship Place! Our AimHire Job Placement Program - a team with only three paid staff members - has just secured employment for its 100th participant.
The program was created during the economic crisis and, truthfully, took a while to develop. We hung on to our own beliefs that it should be absolutely empowering, foster maximum self-sufficiency in a short period of time and definitely focus on job placements, since this last step constitutes a major hurdle for most employment programs out there.
Along the way, we added rapid rehousing assistance because all the folks who came for jobs were doubled up, sleeping outside or in large shelters - none of these conditions being conducive to job retention. Out of the 100 people placed in jobs since June 2011, 98 have found, or are on their way to finding, housing of their own - that they pay for out of their own pockets. We're striving to make this the case for 100% of our participants.
Our job placement and housing figures follow each other in a very close and reassuring pattern, meaning that almost as soon as somebody starts a job, that person also finds permanent affordable housing through AimHire. This proactive, logical approach has been critical to the success and retention of our participants, helping us keep our job retention rate around 90%.
Helping people find jobs in this economy, especially people experiencing homelessness, is incredibly rewarding to our staff, volunteers and AimHire partners. But, then, to know that almost all of our participants are moving into housing they can afford - and that all this has cost the system nothing - just adds to the feeling.
By the way, AimHire isn't limited to serving old "Washington City." It places people all over the DC Metro Area, allowing our participants to find jobs and housing in a location that makes sense for them.
So what's our secret?
Let me start with the fact that once the Friendship Place community has set its eye on making something happen, it does not give up. There are several more "secrets" to our success, like:
- The program's funding structure. Private funding gives us the flexibility we need to build innovative programming that works and develop best practices based on feedback from participants and on their personal aspirations, with no external constraints.
- The incredibly motivated team of staff and volunteers crafting cutting-edge, personalized approaches to empower participants to overcome barriers. This team is an inspiration to see in action.
- Our trademark "come-as-you-are" approach. We work with everyone who comes through looking for a job, GED in hand or not, and all the way to advanced degrees. Many people are overcoming multiple challenges and some have fallen on hard times, just laid off for the first time.
- Phenomenal program partners made up of funders, employers, congregations, landlords, business owners, and mentors who are completely invested in the success of our participants. One partner in particular, Anne Frank House, created a rental subsidy that covers the cost of rent for our participants' first few months in housing, allowing them to build up a savings and really get back on their feet. It's innovative ideas like this that grow our program and make us one of the most sought-after job placement programs in the DC Metro Area.
In my experience in the field, I find that you can never go wrong when you find ways to say "yes." That's what we've done with AimHire, and what we do in all of our programs. This outlook opens processes up to limitless possibilities and amazing results - like 100 jobs and homes for our homeless neighbors.
Follow Jean-Michel Giraud on Twitter: www.twitter.com/FriendshipPlace