People who were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless are finding jobs through a two-week training program operated by the nonprofit HomeAid San Diego that teaches the basic skills needed to work in the construction industry.
So far this year, 22 people have gone through the training in two separate groups, with the most recent group of 15 graduating at the end of June in what HomeAid hopes will be an ongoing and growing effort that it has dubbed HomeAid WORKS (Workforce Opportunities for Rebuilding through Knowledge and Skills).
“We’re just getting started,” said Mary Lydon, executive director of HomeAid San Diego.
“We feel we’re onto something,” Lydon said. “We’re bringing in new partners. We’re hearing about new companies that want to offer jobs.”
Those who go through the program aren’t guaranteed jobs, but they are guaranteed a job interview.
Six of the seven who were in that first group were hired, including Roberto Lopez.
After going through WORKS, Lopez said that he was hired as a customer service representative for the homebuilder Lennar. The Lennar Foundation is among those funding HomeAid.
Lopez spent a year in jail and when he got out in September, he said finding work was nearly impossible.
“I applied everywhere. I always aced the interviews. That was no problem, but when it came to a background check, it was nope, nope, nope,” Lopez said. “I could have been on the verge of homelessness.”
Lopez said HomeAid WORKS introduced him to a field he hadn’t considered and helped him move beyond his past.
“I got the opportunity at Lennar. They just gave me a second chance,” Lopez said. “I actually enjoy what I do. It’s in my comfort zone. I just really enjoy helping people.”
It’s that guaranteed job interview with companies that have made a commitment to work with HomeAid that makes WORKS different from other job training programs, said Staci Reidinger, a former Marine who has her own public relations firm and is board president of HomeAid San Diego.
“A lot of the workforce development programs that we currently see fall short. Many do a good job with training but not at having hiring as their goal,” Reidinger said. “I see that as a unique aspect of our program.”
The immersive training people get is “almost as if it’s a two-week job interview.”
People in the program range in ages from late teens coming out of the foster care system to early 50s.
“We’re very inclusive and have a very diverse mix of students. We want it that way because we want the construction industry to bring in more women and bring in veterans and bring in those who haven’t gotten a part of the building industry,” Reidinger said. “What we’re looking for is people who are definitely at risk (of homelessness) whether that’s having been in incarceration or being in foster care.”
Along with the training, people who complete the program get help in preparing a resume and they get a letter of recommendation.
“That gets them to the front of the line with interviews,” Reidinger said.
With a full-time staff of one – Lydon – HomeAid relies mostly on volunteers.
“We have a lot of engaged volunteers. We could not do all we do without them,” Lydon said. “We have a very lean and efficient operating organization.”
HomeAid works with other nonprofits, including Promises2Kids and PATH.
The San Diego organization is an affiliate of HomeAid America which has 19 chapters across the country.
Companies participating in HomeAid San Diego’s WORK are Lennar, Circle M Construction, Hy-Lang Electric, Alta Drywall, Royal Cabinets, West Coast Lumber, Cap Fireside, McGee Contracting, and Prevost Construction.
Sponsors include Lucky Duck Foundation, Conrad Prebys Foundation, Bank of America, Brookfield Properties, Avalon Bay, San Diego County, US Bank, and Circle M Construction.
“We are dedicated to supporting this important program that helps individual who have had challenges in their past rebuild their lives,” said Alan Willingham, senior vice president of operations for Lennar’s San Diego division and WORKS program chair for HomeAid San Diego.
HomeAid San Diego
Executive Director: Mary Lydon
Headquarters: Mira Mesa
Notable: HomeAid is a nonprofit developer of housing and programmatic facilities for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, operating through a network of 19 affiliates in 13 states.