Program Empowers Formerly Homeless Women with Job Training

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Heather Mostajo overcame drug addiction, living on the streets and now she`s ready to overcome another hurdle – unemployment.
‘There`s no stopping me. You tell me about something, and I`m after it,’ she said.
Mostajo is one of four participants in the paid ‘Get a Job Kit’ training program that aims to get former homeless women back to work.  It`s the only such program of its kind in Sacramento.
It started in April, and already has 4 graduates pursuing jobs in manufacturing, and shipping and receiving.
The program is part of a larger job training series offered by Women`s Empowerment, a non-profit that provides support services to homeless women and their children.
Last year, 90% of 120 job training participants secured a job, and 80% of those are no longer homeless, said Kate Towson, program`s fundraiser developer.
As part of their training, the women assemble hundreds of ‘Get a Job Kits’ that provide job seeker essentials like resume and interview tips, and job search check lists. The kits cost $11, and are sold online, at Heald Colleges, veterans associations, and job training programs nationwide.
The ‘Get a Job Kit’ was created by Carmichael resident Shirley Willey in 1990. Three years ago, Willey donated her kit business to Women`s Empowerment, but continues to volunteer as a mentor. She says the kit offers an affordable education in everything you need to know to land the job.
‘Everyone can put their best foot forward,’ Willey said.
Finding a job in this competitive market is challenging in itself.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics` latest numbers, unemployment is at 5.4% for women, slightly higher than 5.7% for men.  And the percentage is even higher for women minorities.
Employers may also be hesitant to hire applicants with a history of poverty and addiction – although they won`t always admit it.
Job training programs help people like Mostajo, gain not only job skills, but assertiveness and confidence to help combat misconceptions, said Florence Soares-Dabalos, a Sacramento licensed marriage family therapist.
‘We all come with our own stereotypes and biases as human beings, so I`m hopeful that potential employers see their perseverance, that they`re overcoming challenges and that there`s some positive strengths in these people that they can bring to the job,’ Soares-Dabalos.
Trainee Cathy Cotton said the program has renewed her self-confidence, which nose-dived after she lost her job as a legal assistant several years ago.
At 45, she felt nervous entering the workforce again.
‘I now want to be a voice and a resource for women and men who need it,’ Cotton said. ‘I don`t have to give up. I don`t have to let my age hold me back.’

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