By: John Harris III
Americorps VISTA at Friendship Place
More jobs are coming to the District with the arrival of large corporations like the Marriott and Wal-Mart, and we’re working to ensure that DC residents who need these employment opportunities the most are prepared to work efficiently and effectively. That is why Friendship Place, in conjunction with the Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force, the Georgia Avenue Business Alliance, and the Emergence Community Arts Collective will be holding our Job Link program tomorrow — Wednesday, July 31st at the Emergence Community Arts Collective on 713 Euclid Avenue, Washington, DC.
Back in October, about two months into my contract as a VISTA with Friendship Place, I met with Sylvia Robinson, co-founder of the Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force and Executive Director of the Emergence Community Arts Collective. I was a familiar face, having attended Task Force meetings as an intern, but this time I wasn’t an intern—I was a VISTA sent to build the capacity and sustainability of a nonprofit working to end homelessness in the District. Having just graduated from Howard University in May of 2012, I wanted to know how I could help the area I had spent the previous four years of my life.
There has historically been issues between Howard University students and DC residents in the area. Most recently, a Howard University student by the name of Omar Sykes was shot and killed on Fairmont Street NW, a street that is virtually on-campus to the students of Howard . Many students walk around and live in that area. Howard students and DC residents live in the same community. I recognized the role I could play in creating a community that operated more like we all felt like it should.
Sylvia and I both wanted solutions. We decided that if we wanted to see a better community, then we had to create it ourselves.
We started by partnering on a Help The Homeless Community Event to raise both funds and awareness of homelessness on Georgia Avenue. This event also served to build connections between Friendship Place and the Georgia Avenue Corridor. The event was a success. We had a total of 93 registrants, many Howard students and many residents from Georgia Avenue. Howard students were actually speaking to people on the street in order to register more people to support the services Friendship Place has to offer. It was an amazing thing to see. It was foreshadowing in real-life.
Now, months later, Friendship Place, the Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force, Georgia Avenue Business Alliance and Emergence Community Arts Collective are collaborating on a pilot program to assess the needs of residents in the corridor and to connect them with the necessary skills and resources to excel in the job market.
Sylvia stated, “We are holding Job Link to ensure Georgia Avenue and surrounding area residents have fair access to the job opportunities becoming available in the neighborhood. Job Link serves as a way to connect residents to upcoming job leads and support in preparing for these jobs.” We are holding this event thanks in large part to Friendship Place’s innovated job placement program named AimHire.
Friendship Place’s AimHire job placement program, 100% privately funded, is pioneering a new model in the field of employment and homelessness, and is an example of socially responsible entrepreneurship in Washington, DC. According to Jermaine Hampton, the Director of AimHire, “Many employment programs fit participants into an existing program structure. AimHire, instead, begins with the individual and builds around that person whatever services are needed for him/her to move from unemployment and homelessness into employment and housing. AimHire (1) eliminates a time-limited, one-size-fits-all approach, and focuses on targeted, individualized, person-centered, wraparound services; (2) places people into both jobs and housing simultaneously, within the same program; and (3) goes out into the community to meet, build and sustain trusting relationships with employers, other service providers and landlords, thereby creating placements for people who would otherwise be turned away at the door.”
Fully launched in June of 2011, AimHire with a staff of only four full-time employees and eight volunteers has achieved remarkable outcomes in its first 25 months, having placed 163 homeless men and women into jobs with an average pay rate of $14.25, while helping 159 of them, simultaneously, secure housing. That is a formula for success. This socially responsible form of entrepreneurship helps to empower residents to live independently. AimHire is, in a way, making a profit for the city since it is funded purely by private donors and gets residents jobs who then are able to pay taxes through their income and the goods they are able to purchase.
Those who donate to AimHire understand the significance of the work they are investing their money into. They are investing their money in the people they are helping: participants in the program are getting jobs and are able to pay taxes to the city as opposed to living off of programming paid for by tax dollars which, ironically, are also paid by the same type of residents that fund programs like AimHire—DC residents. Friendship Place and its donors are doing their parts to create a better version of the District of Columbia. We should do our parts as well to support such an endeavor.
As a Howard Alum and DC resident, I’m doing my part. I just ask that you join us in our efforts to create a better DC. If you or anyone you know may be in interested in supporting our services in any way, you may do so by doing one of the following:
- Volunteering on the day of the event for which you can contact me, John Harris III, directly 708-363-6003 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Volunteering to build the capacity and sustainability of our AimHire program for which you can contact Jermaine Hampton 202-341-5834 email@example.com
- Donating funds to Friendship Place that will go towards the development and sustainability of our AimHire program. To do so, contact Jermaine Hampton (see above).
- Register as an attendee to virtual Help The Homeless Community Event
Thanks for reading. We really appreciate your support.