Innovative program not only helps homeless people find work, it connects them to higher pay

The aim: Finding work that’ll actually cover the bills.

Innovative program not only connects homeless people to work, it connects them to higher pay

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Even a full-time job in Hawaii doesn’t guarantee you can afford housing.

That’s why a big part of the job at the state’s largest homeless service provider is helping clients help themselves move up — and find work that’ll actually cover the bills.

Over the past year, the Institute for Human Services Hele2Work program has helped 191 people find work. Today, more than 90 percent of them are still employed.

Matthew and his wife know all too well that having a job doesn’t mean being able to cover the bills.

For the past two months, and the couple and their five children have been living at the IHS family shelter.

Matthew, whose last name Hawaii News Now is not disclosing for the family’s privacy, works at Honolulu’s airport.

“The cost of living is just too much,” he said. “The food here is expensive, the rent is expensive. Everything, the gas is expensive. Even at $42,000 per year, you’re still considered low income.”

November Morris heads up the shelter’s Hele2Work Program. The mobile employment center hosts job fairs at 11 locations across Oahu. Staff also go into homeless camps.

“Sometimes, it’s not only finding new jobs, it’s increasing their income,” Morris said.

In addition to helping applicants build resumes and sharpen interview skills, the program also provides free clothes, haircuts and bus passes.

“A lot of the jobs that we actually help people into are those higher paying positions in warehousing, in management,” said Morris. "Sometimes, it means people are switching jobs from a minimum wage job to something a little more higher paying. Others are getting a second job.”

Over the past year, 814 people have participated in the Hele2Work Program.

“Over 20 people a month are getting hired. That’s a lot,” said Morris.

Matthew said he’s trying to boost the family’s income by getting a night job. His wife is applying for jobs, too.

Matthew says he’s determined not to let hard times get the best of his family and says the help they’ve received has them hopeful about the future.

“I talked to my kids. I let them understand our situation," he said. “They’re doing good in school. That’s all that matters. As long as we’re all together and the shelter helps us do that.”

The Hele2Work program is always looking to connect with new employers. Incentives include covering the cost of background checks and drug testing. The program also provides counseling to new hires.

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