One-Hundred Stops To One-Stop Career Center

As you know, I have been working on getting into a job-training program through the One-Stop Career Center in NE Washington, DC. My homeless advocacy which I'm quite dedicated to doesn't leave me much time for anything else; but, I've managed to find the time to apply for job-training and to do something for myself. Howbeit, the lack of organization at the One-Stop and other systemic problems have made the process quite tedious.

I took the CASAS exam last year, scoring a 13.0 grade level in math and a 11.0 grade level in English. (Evidently, you can trust my figures more than my words, which makes it ironic that I would be a blogger. LOL.) At the time that I took the exam, I wasn't applying for job-training. I was simply seeing how the system worked and assessing how homeless-friendly it was. This year I was told that my scores were only good for a year. There is absolutely no logical reason as to why my scores shouldn't still be considered good now. Does DOES (Dept. of Employment Services) think that I got dumber since last year? (I have not had any additional skull fractures since I was 8 months old.) Those who scored too low need the opportunity to re-test and have their highest score considered. But those who passed with flying colors need not re-test. There go your tax dollars at work.

The receptionist at the One-Stop information desk seems to be the least informed person in the building. About 5 weeks ago I went to the One-Stop on a Tuesday morning. I explained to the receptionist that I was sent there by the instructor at the job-training program that I intended to enter and that he'd told me that I could only enter his program through the One-Stop. The receptionist told me to return on any Wednesday or Thursday for orientation and gave me a schedule of weekly sessions at the One-Stop. She didn't say anything about what documentation I would need. So I brought the usual -- DC I.D., voter I.D. and social security card (things that are always in my wallet).

Due to my homeless advocacy with its many meeting and my occasional speeches, I wasn't able to return that week. So, I went through the orientation on September 1st. The person doing the orientation gave the class a list of needed documents. The only thing on the list that I didn't have was my high school transcripts. It would eventually take almost 3 weeks of myself and one other person making numerous calls to Hollister Christian Academy in Hollister, FL as well as to the Putnam County School District in order for me to finally have the transcripts sent electronically. Had I known in mid-August that I needed the transcripts, it is conceivable that I could've had them in hand during my orientation on September 1st. But being given one tidbit of information by the information desk receptionist each time that I go has created weeks and weeks of setbacks.

Since the receptionist is the one person that every client of the One-Stop meets, he or she should be the most informed person in the building. The receptionist has the power to tell people everything that they need to know so as to save everybody a lot of time, headaches and heartaches. However, she only answers the questions that she is asked by clients when, in fact, she should be able to anticipate the unasked questions and tell people what they need to know but don't know enough to ask. (The receptionist deals with job seekers every day versus each client only going through the process occasionally.) It would make a lot of sense for the receptionist to stand up and make a short speech to everyone in the line, letting them know what paperwork they'll need and directing them to classes and other sessions so that they don't stand in line unnecessarily. Unfortunately, she answers everybody's questions individually as they come to the desk.

This past Tuesday I attempted to take the CASAS test again. I entered the One-Stop with my transcripts (though I expected to have to return on a Wednesday or Thursday to give it to a case manager) and asked to take the test. The receptionist asked me who my case manager was and explained that I can't test without first having a case manager. She gave me another schedule and list of needed documents (both of which I already had). I left and called One-Stop branch Manager Natasha Powell later that day. Natasha explained to me that the One-Stop system had been revamped in February 2010 and that, even though I was able to take the CASAS test last year without having a case manager first, that is no longer the case. I explained to her that the orientation instructor had indeed indicated that I needed to sign up with a case manager, but failed to indicate that I couldn't test without having one first. In lieu of the former policy, he should've made that clarification. That was another wasted trip. If all goes well, I'll sign up with a case manager and take the test this coming Thursday.

On a more positive note, a woman who wants only to be known as Ms. I.B. has sponsored me for the 42 weeks of public transportation that I'll need in order to attend trade school. Provided WMATA doesn't do any more fare hikes, she'll pay $15/wk for a flash pass (a bus pass that allows people to ride for an unlimited number of times per week). That comes out to $630.00. I will also be able to receive food stamps during my training. Things are beginning to work out in other areas. It seems that the only failures are with the big government bureaucracy. (DOES is a department of DC Government.) I'll keep hope alive.

I'd be remiss if I were to fail to point out that many homeless people are worse off than myself and would have a much harder time navigating the system. Many of them don't have the money to keep going to the One-Stop day after day. Some don't have a cell phone with national service. Some can't use a computer. And some don't have as many connections as I do. So, if you think that I've had a hard time of it, just try to imagine how difficult it might be for certain other homeless people to rise above their present state. Not everyone can afford to make one-hundred stops to the One-Stop Career Center.

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