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Shelter partners with Denton to help residents experiencing homelessness find jobs

City of Denton

The Our Daily Bread shelter in Denton is partnering with the city to help residents experiencing homelessness rejoin the workforce through a new job readiness training program.

The Ready for Work program is based on a successful model from a Colorado shelter.

Participants receive personal and professional training, including mentorship, counseling and access to a case worker and job coach.

Ken Tesch is a ready for work supervisor with Our Daily Bread and provides coaching and transportation for the program.

“The whole goal of the program is to really, if there are chains from the past or barriers from the past that are binding them, we help them move through those barriers and break those chains and to become really an independent person who is able to carry on on their own and become a fully contributing member of society,” Tesch said.

The program also provides food and housing for participants for the duration of the program, during which they have paid positions at the Denton landfill.

Director of Solid Waste Brian Boerner said the program helps teach skills that people can take for granted — like being on time and how to handle possible conflict.

“It's kind of like a recalibration,” Boerner said. “So, in a safe environment, it allows the participants to rebuild those skills and then through an opportunity of training and feedback, create confidence in the workforce and within themselves.”

A crew of four people has been working with the city for about a month. Tesch said he is currently teaching a second class and will soon have two more work crews.

He said the current crew leader was previously homeless but has received additional training to develop leadership skills. For the privacy and safety of the participants they were not identified.

“As we expand our work crews, we’ll have a need for more crew leaders and more work crews,” Tesch said. “So, more people will be able to develop those kinds of things on their resume and develop leadership skills that they're learning while they're working here and working at Denton.”

Work for the city is currently picking up trash at the Denton landfill, but Tesch said they are looking into ways to expand the program internally to accommodate people who cannot stay out in the heat.

After participants work for the city for several months, Our Daily Bread will help them find their own long-term jobs and provide up to a year of ongoing support.

The program Ready for Work is based on has a 74% success rate – Our Daily Bread worked with the original organization and hopes to see similar success in Denton.

The first step for eligibility into the program is attending the information sessions that Tesch teaches.

“And then I don't give them an application” Tesch said. “They have to come up and take one. So that's their first step toward a new life. They come up, they take an application, they fill it out, they hand it back to me.”

After that, Tesch interviews the candidates to get to know them and find out what is going on in their lives and any skillsets they have.

Tesch said a lot of people have misconceptions about homelessness and that one or two life issues like loss of a job or family would leave most people homeless.

“People can become homeless through all different things,” Tesch said. “Homelessness has many faces, and at times homelessness surprises people who never thought they would be. And they just need hope. They need help.”