Every week Mark Gordon takes calls from homeless people at the non-profit organization, Friendship Place. He knows how they feel.
Following the Great Recession of 2008, Gordon faced a housing foreclosure, a divorce and a job loss. He had never faced such a crisis before in his life.
“It was fairly desperate. I had burned through all of my savings trying to maintain my position in the real estate industry in California. So when I came back to DC I was pretty much flat broke. And with no job prospects.”
He stayed at a homeless shelter run by his church. The church introduced him to Friendship Place, an organization working to improve the lives of the homeless. One of its programs, AimHire, focuses on preparing clients, so they can land a job.
Although Gordon was initially skeptical of the program, he agreed to participate. The program staff worked one-on-one with Gordon on his resume, his interviewing skills and his confidence.
“Initially, it helped me to sort of regain my self-esteem, my sense of self-worth. Kind of rekindle my ambition to make something of myself.”
After nearly a year Gordon landed a job working for a concierge service company. He is one of 246 people hired as a result of AimHire’s services.
“We should not assume that because somebody has been homeless, they don’t know how to work,” said Jean-Michel Giraud, executive director of Friendship Place.
AimHire’s director, Jermaine Hampton, says the staff builds relationships with area companies.
“We’re putting a face with the name, so in Mark Gordon’s instance, it’s not just him…It’s a whole organization supporting him and we’re actually building a connection with the employer,” Hampton said.
Since its inception nearly two years ago, AimHire has been funded entirely by private donors.
“…the staff here have done the most magnificent job of preparing people and taking people where they are at the moment,” said Rosalie Berk, donor and board member for the Washington National Cathedral.
Currently, Gordon not only works, but he also volunteers for Friendship Place. No longer homeless, he goes home to an apartment.
“Don’t give up on the fact that you still have a lot to give, you still have a lot to offer. And don’t downplay that. Always keep yourself highly motivated and surround yourself with people that are of the same mind,” Gordon said.
Produced/Written by: Elizabeth Jia, Multimedia Journalist/Producer, WUSA 9 News