A Possible Job Opportunity For The Homeless

I have a couple of good things to report today. First of all, I have landed a part-time job, as indicated by my most recent video. Secondly, DC Government's Dept. of Employment Services (DOES) has begun to collaborate with several homeless advocates in an effort to employ more of the homeless population. The homeless are faced with numerous barriers to employment. The developing world-wide depression only serves to compound the already difficult task of employing the homeless. Therefore, DC Government's willingness to work with the advocacy community when we approached them is a welcome gesture, for what it's worth.

As for my job, I must admit that it just fell into my lap. A friend came to me and described the job and the hours. He asked me whether or not I had experience using a floor buffer and told me that the woman doing the hiring was his friend. I began my part-time janitorial job in NE Washington, DC. on April 21st.

Some would say that I am under-employed insomuch as I am qualified to do a more challenging, better-paying job -- one that puts my wit and planning abilities to good use. However, homeless advocacy is my first love, with or without pay. The job is for the purpose of helping me to pay for my cellphone, public transportation and other costs associated with homeless advocacy.

The reason as to why I don't just seek employment at an agency that does homeless advocacy is that I'd have to do it their way. I prefer the in-the-mayor's-face, adversial style. (Experience has shown me that it is the only style that works with this mayor.) I don't want to sign on with anyone who is going to make me be nice and essentially ineffective.

So much for me. Now to address the job opportunities being afforded the homeless community as a whole. Various homeless advocates have tried tirelessly to arrange a meeting with D.O.E.S. (the Dept. of Employment Services) and hash out the idea of having employment centers in various shelters. At one point, things were looking up, as Joe Walsh, the director of D.O.E.S. expressed excitement, enthusiasm and optimism about the idea. Then, all of a sudden, his attitude seemed to have changed quite inexplicably and he stopped communicating with the homeless advocates. He stopped answering e-mails and returning calls. There is good reason to suspect that the mayor told Mr. Walsh not to follow through on this noble effort.

Dialogue has begun again, though this time it is with Mr. Walsh's special assistant, Clinton LeSueur. There was a meeting on Monday, April 13th, during which Mr. LeSueur spoke with Steve Thomas of the video blog "Better Believe Steve", myself and several other homeless advocates and several others from DC Government about creating more job opportunities for the homeless.

We asked to have employment centers set up in all homeless shelters. One might ask why the homeless don't just go to the existing One Stop Employment Centers. First and foremost, the jobs at the One Stops are given out on a competitive basis. With our economy tanking, there are many college-educated people standing in line for unskilled jobs. They have an unfair advantage over the homeless community which, for the most part, is not college-educated. (Surprising as it may be to you, I've never attended college. Some make the false assumption that I have.)

Another reason which sticks out in my mind is the fact that transportation is an issue for many homeless people. Without already having a job, getting transportation to interviews or to do a job search can be challenging, as most homeless services that assist with transportation will only provide bus tokens AFTER the homeless person has landed the job -- not during the job search and/or job training.

Also, many of the homeless lose hope when they need to travel to unfamiliar parts of town to find places they've never been to. They'd be more inclined to seek employment services if the office were located right in their shelter or some other place that serves the homeless. It is incumbent upon the local government (and anyone who shares the duty and/or desire to end homelessness) to cater to the psyche of the homeless community and to encourage them to the greatest extent possible. It is with this in mind that we strongly suggest that One Stop Employment Centers be placed within shelters and/or other homeless services.

Let's add to that the fact that some of the homeless have lost touch with the larger world outside of the homeless community and are not comfortable associating with those who are not directly connected to the homeless community as either a homeless person or a service provider. While it is incumbent upon them to assimilate into society eventually, this takes time and can't be done haphazardly. After all, the homeless community has been victimized by stereotypes, prejudices, hate crimes and the like -- all of which make it difficult to assimilate into society. Furthermore, many of these prejudices are perpetrated by would-be-employers against homeless job-seekers.

Let's face it. If slave traders could travel thousands of miles across treacherous waters to force Africans out of their homeland and into this country, then our government and others living today (who I don't blame for slavery) should be able to go a few steps outside of their posh offices and comfort zones and use a taken-by-the-hand approach to reach out to the homeless and other under-privileged groups (who are not entirely Afro-American).

If that's not enough, let's bear in mind that the Fenty administration is still reeling from last year's Youth Summer Job Program debacle. Taxpayers lost about $50 million on that scandal alone, with the Fenty administration being at no shortage of scandals for us to focus on and ridicule the mayor for. However, it is important to note that none of the people from D.O.E.S. that we are working with have been known to be involved in any scandal at all. My point in mentioning the scandals is that, if our government can afford to lose no less than a quarter billion on scandals since Fenty took office, it can surely afford to spend a few million on an experimental program that might prove to help thousands of homeless people.

Besides, the homeless community has its foot on the neck of DC Government insomuch as the government will end up taking care of its homeless by providing any combination of the following: shelters, housing, employment services and health care. If the homeless community is agitated by its government, that could lead to civil disobedience or worse, resulting in jail time. It therefore, behooves the government to invest in jobs for the homeless.

We homeless advocates made most of the above points to Clinton LeSueur and company during our April 13th meeting. Mr. LeSueur and the others seemed very receptive to all that we had to say. They were quite sympathetic to the plight of the homeless. Mr. LeSueur went so far as to put in a plug for the mayor by saying that the mayor cares very much about the issue of homelessness -- a statement which I took with a grain of salt, though I've found no reason (as of yet) to doubt the genuineness of Mr. LeSueur. Though we didn't come up with anything concrete, we DID make plans to meet again. I'll give this meeting a thumbs-up. It was a success. Keep hope alive.

Fact of the matter is that, as I go to work this evening, I must deal with the harsh reality that I lack the means to get certain basic neccesities. Normally, I would've gotten free food from the Salvation Army and others that feed the homeless in the evening. I sometimes only eat 1 full course meal per day, as a result of having not gotten my 1st check yet and not being able to attend the free feedings. I also have to walk over 2 miles, since I'm not familiar with or able to make it to places that help with transportation. I am experiencing the full brunt of problems associated with new employment as a homeless person. Fortunately, I have plenty of friends whom I plan to approach for help. Helping people pays in the long run. In the past I've been able to get help due to me having helped others. I'll need to use some of those favors that I've earned now.


My father, Rudolph Peter Sheptock, I, would have turned 77 on April 29th, 2009. He died on Sept. 13th, 2000. He figures largely into this issue of work and thus this blog post in that he always encouraged his sons and daughters to work for a living. Whenever my mother would complain to him about the behavior of myself or my siblings, he would often come back with "But he/she is a good worker". When he had authority over all 3 shifts of the Enviromental Services Dept. at Shands Hospital in Gainesville, FL, he would sometimes go to work in order to get away from my mother's fuss. He would even encourage me to go outside and do some yard work until he got home if I were having a problem with my mother. For him, work was a stress reliever. He is the reason for my work ethic, which I apply both at work and in my pro bono homeless advocacy.


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