Draper Center Launches Homeless Employment Program

The Draper Center for Community Partnerships at Pomona College launched its Pomona Employment Partners initiative this semester, which focuses on long-term solutions to homelessness in the City of Pomona.

The initiative, co-directed by Sophie Roe PO ’19 and Marisol Diaz PO ’18, is one of three sub-programs of the Draper Center's Hunger and Homelessness Initiative. The two pre-existing programs include the Food Recovery Network and the Homelessness Action Team.

Unlike these programs, PEP will focus on connecting Pomona's homeless residents with employment opportunities. Student members hope to achieve this by working in two subgroups: on-site volunteers and job researchers, Roe said.

On-site volunteers will be connecting directly with clients, helping them apply for jobs, and aiding in the resume writing process. Job researchers will be looking up local employers and calling to find job openings, especially those that are open regardless of the restrictions that the clients possess.

Oftentimes, homeless community members' limitations become potential setbacks for job researchers, Roe added.

“Most employers don’t like being asked whether you do drug tests on applicants or whether they are felon-friendly,”  said Sarah Burch PO ’21, who began working as a job researcher this semester. “Coming out of jail definitely brings many barriers to getting a job. We try to find specific jobs that meet the needs of the homeless community, taking into account the obstacles that formerly incarcerated people have.”

PEP's student members are optimistic about the new initiative.

“Even though PEP is just getting started, the ultimate goal of sustained employment, self-sustainability, and eventual independence for the clients is more efficient than direct on-the-day service. It allows for mobility,” said Kate Immergluck PO ’21.

PEP is still growing, and the Draper Center, which works to create “mutually beneficial exchanges among community members, students, faculty, and staff in order to support educational outreach initiatives, community-based research and learning, and other community engagement activities,” according to its website, is excited to see more people interested in the issue.

Volunteers and coordinators are already seeing the positive impact the program is having on the individuals involved.

“It’s really exciting when someone gets a job,” Roe said. “One of our clients submitted his resume the other day and is very excited to hear his results.”

Roe said the initiative is unique in that students can “effectively take action to do something about the social inequalities and class barriers that we learn and discuss in classrooms.”

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