News & Event
Rhode Island’s poor economy and high unemployment make it twice as hard for many Crossroads clients to compete for jobs. Just finding the resources one needs to look for work while being homeless is very difficult to manage. Fortunately, the Education and Employment Services programs at Crossroads can help make the transition to the workplace a little easier. A visit to Leanne Ovalles’ “Get Hired!” class, offered by Crossroads’ Intensive Pre-Employment Program, provides an opportunity to meet some very hard-working students and learn what they are doing to prepare for the workforce.
The walls in the classroom are covered with student work that inspires and motivates, including the “group resumes” that present graphic descriptions of students’ “game plans” to achieve success. Dirk, one of the students, explained that groups of four students work together to create each poster. One, inspired by Diane, a resident of our Women’s Shelter, was based on a drawing of a football field where “the team” members worked downfield to achieve their goals by building on their assets—education, work experience, hobbies, travel-- and striving to achieve personal success. The classroom walls also show the students’ “mission statements” that express where they want to go, what kinds of jobs they hope to get and careers they want to pursue.
I asked the students how they learned about the class. Some first heard about it through their case advocates, others saw a sign in the lobby announcing the “Get Hired!” class. Those who wanted to enroll signed up for a two-day orientation where they learned all about the class and what would be expected from them. “I had no idea how to write a resume or a cover letter, and I didn’t realize just how much valuable work experience I have,” one student commented. “If I hadn’t come to this class, I might never have done a resume or realized that I have something to offer an employer.” Students say they were very encouraged after compiling their resumes because, when looking at what they have already accomplished, they are more confident that they have valuable skills that will help them get jobs.
The “Get Hired!” class has a 30-hour volunteer requirement, and every student was excited to talk about the wonderful volunteer work experience. “I volunteer with Habitat for Humanity,” says Thomas. “We are building a house for a family that really needs a home. I am committed to staying with the project until we can hand them their keys.” Dirk, who lives in the Crossroads Housing Tower, volunteers at the Providence Intown Church Association (PICA) food pantry. “There is a constant flow of people coming in for food, and I am amazed how many people depend on PICA just to get through the week,” he says. Dianne and Michelle volunteer at the Salvation Army, where they help set up and serve Sunday meals for people in the neighborhood. Jermain has a volunteer job he really likes—recycling old computer parts at Free Geek, Tanya and Herbie help out the DARE program by doing outreach in the community and giving out information, Chelsea volunteers at the Rhode Island Free Clinic, and Denise is at the Spring of Life Church to help out. Another student says he will continue to volunteer after he completes the class because the experience has meant so much to him.
Students in the class have high hopes for a better future. They are learning to use up-to-date technology and brushing up their computer skills, practicing for job interviews, becoming familiar with the services at NetWORKri and learning workplace skills. Some of the students say they are waiting to enroll in the planned Janitorial Training Program, which Crossroads hopes to launch this year. Others are interested in the Animal Caretaker and Certified Nursing Assistant trainings, getting a high school credential, or going to college. The “Get Hired!” class is empowering to the students and provides a supportive, professional environment where participants are motivated to succeed.
Written by Crossroads Staff Member Betty Johnson-Simons
Recently I visited students in Crossroads’ new Non-Farm Animal Caretaker Training Program. They were celebrating the successful completion of the classroom component of the first training and looking forward to the next step—internships at seven animal shelter programs across the state. Every student was full of praise for the program and the instructor, Michelle Cantini, who brings years of animal care experience, knowledge of the field and a lot of enthusiasm to the program.
The training prepares students for careers working with companion animals in shelters, veterinary clinics, pet supply store, kenneling or pet day care programs. Students achieve certification in animal first aid and CPR, learn basic animal care techniques involved in grooming, routine health care, feeding, kennel management and obedience training. They participate in frequent field trips to animal shelters where they observe and learn from professional animal caretakers. After completing the class work, students advance to internships that include hands-on work experience at several animal shelters across the state.
There was no doubt that every student in the class was inspired by a love for animals and was determined to pursue a career that offers many opportunities for further education and advancement. Tony, one of the students, says he highly recommends the program for anyone who loves animals, and that applies to every student in the class. Red, another student, praised the instructor and said that she has motivated them to work hard and pursue their dreams of working in a field they love. Jodi, another student, said that she had never met a more patient teacher.
For these enthusiastic students, the Animal Caretaker Program is a dream come true. Most of these animal lovers are struggling with unemployment, homelessness and poverty, and over and over they said how grateful they are for the opportunity to train for work as animal caretakers. One student said, “We just want to thank Crossroads for offering this class, and we know that there are many more people here waiting for a chance to enroll.” Another student, Ron Dogg, says that he used to work with animals when he lived in Texas. “Now that I will have animal first aid and CPR certification, I know that I will be able to get a good job doing what I love most—helping animals.” Ron really wants to go back to Texas someday and feels confident that he will be successful there.
The day I visited the class, Dave Holden from the Providence Animal Shelter and Tammy Mello, a Warwick police officer, were there to talk to the students about ways they handle animal cruelty complaints. Dave and Tammy had brought along an adorable puppy from the Providence Shelter, and the students were showering the little guy with a lot of attention and affection. It was easy to see that these students love what they are doing and are eager to learn more.
This program helps Crossroads’ low-income and homeless students build on their experiences and talents and love for companion animals to forge a better future for themselves. The animal caretaker field has many opportunities for employment at all levels, and there are many certificate programs to help practitioners advance in their careers. Both the students and the companion animals they care for will benefit from this innovative program.
Student Shirley Jones (second from left) benefited from joint instruction at Amos House and Crossroads in completing the NEDP. Pictured with Crossroads Learning Center staff.
Crossroads has been proud to partner with Amos House for the last year to help students earn their high school diplomas through the National External Diploma Program (NEDP).
The NEDP is offered at Amos House as part of their Literacy and Diploma Program. The program is run quarterly, and in order to qualify, students must be approaching the adult secondary level in reading, writing, and math.
Students do their testing and work at Amos House, while having supplemental support at the Crossroads Learning Center when they need it.
Students who are dually enrolled with Crossroads take advantage of additional instruction and computer lab hours at Crossroads outside of what they receive at Amos House. In addition, Crossroads sends individuals who have already been working at our Learning Center and are ready to enroll directly in the NEDP to Amos House.
"We have this really nice partnership with Crossroads," says Sheri Lupoli, Adult Literacy Program Coordinator at Amos House. "If we're in the middle of a session and can't take people, Crossroads will work with them to get their scores up. Crossroads helps people start working on their basic skills. Then students come to Amos House to work on the program."
“NEDP offers students a more realistic timeline for completing something and feeling confident about the work they put into it,” says Jennifer Bryant, Learning Center Coordinator at Crossroads Rhode Island. “It’s an alternative to the traditional path that is a little more real world, a little more hands on, and includes life skills.”
Students who complete the NEDP in Rhode Island will be earning a high school diploma from Central Falls High School. Rhode Island is one of eleven states to recognize completion of the NEDP as a high school diploma.
"In addition to a diploma, students are coming out of the program with a better work ethic, as stronger and more competitive candidates in the work force," says Sheri.
“Everything they work on here all leads to that one thing they all need to sustain a job, housing, and to improve from where they are,” says Jennifer.
As the newest instructor in our Employment and Education Services department, Dennis Owens has already seen the positive impact that education and job training has on people who are working to improve - or in some cases, rebuild - their lives.
His very first class of Janitorial Training students included some ambitious individuals who achieved tremendously positive outcomes. As a direct result of the Janitorial Training program, three students secured employment in the janitorial field, and one student went on to another training program.
“They came to me very motivated,” Dennis said of his students. “They come ready and willing to learn, and seem committed to changing their lives. They really invested in it. Everything I asked them to do, they did it.”
The Janitorial Training program is just one of the job-training classes offered at Crossroads. The class teaches students janitorial skills from the simple to the complex. By the end of the eight-week program, successful students receive four different certifications which make them qualified and desirable candidates for jobs in the janitorial field: OSHA 10 Safety Certification, Green Cleaning Certification, Blood-Born Pathogen Certification, and Mold Remediation Certification.
In addition to 12 hours a week of in-class instruction, Janitorial Training students are required to complete a 40 hour internship in the field, and about three hours of homework every week. They work with Dennis and other Crossroads staff members to learn how to conduct job searches specifically geared to the janitorial field.
Dennis is uniquely qualified for his position as Janitorial Training Program Instructor. With experience as a business owner in environmental services, he worked in the community at places like Johnson and Wales University and Roger Williams Medical Center conducting training in environmental services. Eventually, he decided to go back to school himself and earned his Master’s degree in Adult Education. Dennis came out of retirement to take on the position of Janitorial Training Program Instructor at Crossroads.
Dennis recently welcomed 15 new students into his classroom for his second class. He feels confident that his new students will value the class as much and work as hard as his first students. In the near future, he hopes to grow the program by developing more hands-on training and offering job-shadowing opportunities to his students.
Since late 2011, the Crossroads Family Center has sheltered a record number of families with small children. The Family Center has space for 15 families, but the demand for shelter has been so great in recent months that the staff has had to put cots and mattresses in the Center’s common area and computer study room to accommodate additional families.
At our downtown location, families have had to share our Family Room or sleep in conference rooms because no shelter could be found for them. Crossroads is working frantically to find additional shelter options for families, and the staff at the Family Center is doing everything possible to help parents and children cope with their situations. Homelessness is traumatic, especially for children, and the severe overcrowding at the Family Center presents additional challenges for everyone.
Chontell Washington, Crossroads’ Family Literacy Coordinator, tries to come up with creative approaches to brighten the lives of the families and help the children enjoy learning activities while they are with us.
“Last year, we had a grant from the Ronald MacDonald House Charities, and I was impressed by their mission to enhance children’s lives. That idea stuck, and I decided we could enhance the lives of the children in our shelter despite the difficulties we are having now,” says Chontell.
She looked through a catalog of arts and crafts supplies, and when she saw some materials that she could use to convert the common area into an impromptu theater, she ordered some paper “guitars” and a backdrop that depicted a curtain and stage lights. The guitars were a little too flimsy, though.
“I knew that Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island employees were coming to Crossroads for a volunteer day in April, so I brought my paper guitars and some materials I got from the recycling center to our downtown location and took advantage of some of the Blue Cross volunteers,” Chontell explained. “They cut out colored cardboard backing and glued them to the paper guitars to make them stronger.”
On one of the regularly scheduled Family Literacy days, Chontell took over the Family Center dining room and brought out all the materials so that parents could work with the children to decorate each guitar.
“It was a great learning experience for the kids,” Chontell says. “They learned about guitars, counted the number of strings and learned how each one makes a different sound. It was a good activity for hand and eye coordination, dexterity, and learning new words.”
When the guitars were all decorated, Chontell put up the stage backdrop, lowered the lights and started the music, which turned out to be a universal language for the multi-lingual group of children. One by one, kids volunteered to be rock stars.
One little boy called his song ‘4’ and happily sang the words, “Uno, dos, tres, cuatro,” rocking to the music, with all the other children joining in.
“The parents were so proud of their little rock stars,” Chontell says. “So many of the children in the shelter are suffering from the trauma of having lost their homes, and they don’t talk to anyone. But when we started rocking, they all began to join in the dancing and singing. It was a wonderful time for them, and parents were so happy to see their children doing something fun.”
After the concert, the children enjoyed healthy snacks and continued to sing and show off their very own guitar creations.
This effort, which brought so much joy to children enduring very hard times, shows how a small effort by community volunteers can make a huge difference in the lives of our clients.
“I am so happy that the Blue Cross volunteers will be able to see how their work making paper guitars turned into so many smiles and so much happiness,” Chontell says.
Crossroads is very proud of Chontell and her woquatrrk to bring a successful Family Literacy program to our Family Center. These kinds of programs are a rarity in a shelter setting, but they are a powerful way to help children create positive memories while they are with us.
If you would like to help dedicated staff members like Chontell continue to enrich the lives of homeless children and give their parents the essential support and services they need to move their families out of homelessness, please consider donating now.
We are pleased and very grateful to announce that Crossroads Rhode Island has been granted a Governor's Workforce Board Innovation award. The award was given to 16 agencies that provide job training to help Rhode Islanders get back to work.
This grant will enable us to train 40 low-income or homeless adults to become certified nursing assistants (CNAs)!
Our CNA training program has graduated 107 classes of individuals. Our graduates are prepared to enter the workforce with the proper training and experience necessary to begin their careers.
We recently had a chance to catch up with Yakellin Garcia, a CNA graduate from our 81st class.
Yakellin graduated from the CNA program in the fall of 2011. She visited Crossroads recently as a Career Day recruiter on behalf of her employer, Cherry Hill Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Yakellin remembers her time as a CNA student at Crossroads as both challenging and encouraging.
"The class was a little challenging because there was a lot to memorize and take in...my teachers and instructors had so much faith in me, so I didn't give up," she said.
Yakellin has been a CNA at Cherry Hill for three years. She specializes in caring for long term patients, and is not only the lead CNA on her floor, but was also named CNA of the Year there. She also has an active role on Cherry Hill's Retention and Recruitment Committee.
Yakellin is passionate about her role, and encourages people thinking about pursuing a career as a CNA, as long as they are passionate about it as well.
"Don't just do it for the money, do it because you really care," she says. "A lot of patients will depend on you."
In the future, Yakellin plans to continue her education and pursue a career in Criminal Justice.
"No obstacles that I've faced stopped me from getting to where I wanted to be, and I'm not done yet," she said.
If you would like more information on the CNA Training program and other Education and Employment Services at Crossroads, visit our website.
Providence, RI, July 1, 2016
The Board of Directors of Crossroads Rhode Island, the state’s largest provider of services to the homeless, today announced a merger with the Women’s Center of Rhode Island, an organization serving victims of domestic violence. After a formal three-year affiliation, the two organizations have merged into one 501(c)3 organization governed by the Crossroads Board of Directors, and all Women’s Center programs and services have moved into Crossroads’ continuum of care as the Domestic Violence Program of Crossroads Rhode Island.
The Board of Directors of both organizations unanimously agreed to the merger. “This merger represents the coming together of two organizations united in the common goal of empowering vulnerable individuals and families to overcome homelessness and live safe, self-sufficient lives free of violence,” noted Virginia Branch, Women’s Center of Rhode Island Board Chair and Crossroads Rhode Island board member.
By combining the resources of both organizations, this new entity is better positioned to meet the needs of the community.
“By merging, we will improve the quality and accessibility of services to survivors of domestic violence and expand the range of services that support clients as they transition to safety, housing and stability,” noted Jack McConnell, Crossroads Rhode Island Board Chair. “The merger not only enhances and expands the scope of services of both nonprofits, but also provides a larger operating platform,” he added.
From a sample of women who had experienced domestic violence, 38% became homeless after they separated from their abusive partner. An additional 25% indicated that they had to leave their homes during the year following the separation for both safety and financial reasons.
“By bringing an innovative Housing First approach to our Domestic Violence Program, we hope to break the cycle of violence by providing opportunities for supportive, safe housing options for women and children as they transition from shelter,” noted Karen Santilli, President of Crossroads Rhode Island. “We will continue to offer comprehensive, evidence-based programs and services to individuals and families in crisis, such as 24/7 hotline, domestic violence safe shelter, case management, employment support and supportive transitional and permanent housing that survivors want and need to become independent.”
A Domestic Violence Committee of the Board will ensure that evidence-based domestic violence programs and services will continue and expand to meet the needs of clients who have experienced the trauma of domestic violence.
Additionally, Crossroads has applied for affiliate membership with the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (RICADV), an organization dedicated to ending domestic violence.
“The Women’s Center was one of the founding member agencies of the RI Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1979, and they have been an integral component of the domestic violence movement in our state. We are looking forward to working with Crossroads Rhode Island, and to helping them maintain critical services for victims of domestic violence in the Providence area,” noted Deborah DeBare, Executive Director of the RICADV.
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