The following was submitted to Patch from Jeannette Archer-Simons, the Interim Exec. Dir. of Open Door Shelter in Norwalk:
Magic clothes at the shelter....
There is a certain magic in helping people to the right path when they have had issues in life. This month the light that sparked two of our clients was a result of a lot of work to prepare them for a job search.
We sometimes take for granted the little things in life. We are connected to everyone and anyone with computers and our phones. But if you don't know how to use a computer and are afraid you will break it, you can't apply for most jobs.
Our job coaches help clients learn how to fill out an application using a computer. They connect them with potential employers and prep them by practicing interview skills.
But you can't show up for many interviews and be seriously considered if you are not properly dressed. Unfortunately, we all know that first impressions do count.
So through our community partnerships we connect our clients with the right clothes to get a job. Sometimes that is taking a client to a big and tall store to get the right uniform for a job. Sometimes it is working with our partners, Dress For Success to provide clothing for women to wear to an interview.
Recently two of our clients went "shopping" at Dress for Success. They were reluctant. They did not want people to help them. But after coaching they went to the Dress for Success gently used clothing "store" and were helped to find two appropriate outfits for them to wear to interviews.
When these ladies came back they were transformed! They stood in our lobby with their transition coach (case manager) and their job coach and started pulling their outfits out of the bag; a pair of dress slacks and a jacket with a sweater, scarf, shoes, and appropriate jewelry; a skirt and jacket with a blouse, nylons, shoes and a dress coat.
Each item was pulled out and the giggling of girls with new clothes started. If you have ever had a new suit or outfit that made you feel good, you know how they felt.
They were joyful, confident and prepared to interview because these magic clothes transformed them from being homeless to being a potential employee.
After they shared all their wonderful "new" clothes, one said, "and when we get the job, they will give us five days of additional clothes." Notice she said when, not if. We restore confidence.
When you have nothing, you believe you are nothing. They both want to work. They both needed coaching to get ready for their job search. The both needed help with clothing so an employer will see them as a serious candidate.
Community support makes the magic happen. It provides the coaching, connections and catalyst for us to move people from crisis to independence.