By Gretchen Burnton
Monday is Labor Day. It signals the end of summer and for most, an extra long weekend. The holiday also reminds us to stand back and not only appreciate the workers of the world and all that they do, but also appreciate those who have endured the struggle to find work, even when it seemed impossible.
Jackie Solares, program coordinator of St. Vincent de Paul’s Special Ministries to the Homeless , sees about 200 faces come in everyday, looking for help in the job opportunity program.
“People will come in for a shower, sack lunch, change of clothing, and one-on-one interviews with our volunteers,” Jackie said.
Special Ministries helps people find jobs or find a job that is more sustaining to their needs. And, until people can support themselves, Ministries provides everything in between.
“We tell them where to look, we assist them with their resumes, we assist them with setting up a phone or email address so that they can keep in contact with those they send their resumes to,” Jackie said.
Anyone who has searched for jobs can attest that the hunt can be frustrating. It’s the same for the guests.
Volunteers are trained to help facilitate this hard process.
“Sometimes some of our volunteers who come in will see the same person over and over, or they’ll look out in the lobby and see the same faces and they start to wonder, ‘Are we really doing anything? We’ve been doing this for a while,’” Jackie said.
It’s hard, sometimes, to see what is keeping some of the guests from being able to sustain themselves, but Jackie pushes for volunteers and Vincentians at Special Ministries to interact with everyone they help. It’s not just about providing clothing and basic needs for the day. It’s about giving them someone to talk to. This way, it becomes easier to help people get out of their rut.
“Recently we had a client who was homeless for 9-10 years,” said Jackie. “He was very young. It just seemed like we weren’t really doing anything for him, but I think that everyday somebody got to know his name and interact with him, finally something just clicked.”
One of the interns at SVdP’s clothing counter figured out that this particular man didn’t have any ID or a birth certificate to get an ID so he was seemingly stuck. Upon hearing this, Jackie pulled together some funds and got the man to do his paperwork. And when it became clear that he needed glasses, Jackie made sure the man was helped at SVdP’s clinic. From there, everything else fell together and the man went through the job program, got a job, and is now moving into his own apartment.
“It was like he got out of this fog and it was just that people paid attention.” Jackie said. “We never lost faith.”
If you wish to help out in Special Ministries, please apply online at http://www.stvincentdepaul.net/volunteer.htm Special Ministries’ hours of operation are Monday-Friday 9-4 p.m.
If you’re unable to volunteer during this time, consider putting together a drive for tennis shoes and backpacks. Even the smallest project or bit of help can go a long way!