Rob had a lot of barriers. He was a homeless, unemployed veteran with no transportation – but he was trying to get himself back on track. He was working with Vets 2 Success, a Goodwill partner agency that provides culinary training for veterans. One of the program requirements included working with a Goodwill veterans’ case manager. Rob’s case manager, Jeremiah, was working with him to obtain housing but just when a local program was about to approve housing for Rob, he got into trouble. He was living outside near the park and wanted a beer, and got arrested for having an open container. Not only did he spent the weekend in jail, he was also kicked out of the housing program.
Nonetheless, Rob kept moving forward. He stayed in the Vets 2 success program and attended his weekly classes. Then another barrier popped up: his health. His excess weight was affecting his knees and he knew that most jobs in food service require a lot of standing. To top it off, when Rob had his day in court to settle the open container case, the judge told him he had 30 days to get a job and to get housing or he was going back to jail.
Rob wasn’t sure he wanted to be on a diet and he wasn’t sure he wanted a job in food service anymore. He wasn’t interested in working on his health issues. And then he got a wake-up call, upon learning that another member of Vets 2 Success program had died in his sleep. Rob became very depressed. However, his case managers at Goodwill, Vets 2 Success and the Suncoast Partnership were painfully aware that the clock was still ticking. Rob couldn’t get housing without getting a job, and if he didn’t have both within 30 days he was going back to jail.
Rob’s case managers rallied around him and encouraged him to keep moving forward. His friend’s death made Rob acknowledge that his own health issues were serious and needed to improve. He stuck to his diet and lost 20 pounds. He took a job at a local restaurant that was connected with the Vets 2 Success program. However, Rob wasn’t fast enough for the position and was let go. Rob and his case management team regrouped once more to try to beat the clock so that he would be both housed and employed when he went back to court to face the judge.
Jeremiah visited an employer who was hiring phone operators. This job allowed the employee to sit throughout the day and schedule appointments. He planned to meet with the owner and inquire about the company’s hiring policies. He intended to advocate for Rob, who now had a criminal record to add to his long list of barriers. As it turns out, the employer wanted to help. He described himself as a veteran-friendly second-chance employer. When Rob heard about the outcome of the visit, he applied for a job immediately. He was hired two weeks later – just in time for his court date. Now, four months later, Rob is still working and is feeling successful. He does a great job and recently earned a bonus for his good work.
Rob is grateful that he had support when his situation seemed hopeless. He is glad that he had a team that refused to quit until their mission was completed, even when the mission sometimes seemed impossible. That’s what veterans do. And, at Goodwill, that’s what we do, too …