By Olin Ericksen
August 1 -- Santa Monica businesses used to driving homeless people from their shops are now being asked by the local Chamber of Commerce to give the most able of them some work.
Partnering with the homeless non-profit, Chrysalis, Chamber officials are asking local businesses to give homeless individuals from the area who are working to get back on their feet a chance to build a resume and job skills through a 60 to 90-day internship program at their stores.
“It is a great way for individual businesses to make a meaningful contribution to the problem of homelessness in our community,” said Chamber President Kathryn Dodson.
“In fact, it is our attempt to respond to the requests we get from members asking what they, as individual business owners, can do to help,” she said.
The program was hailed by officials at Chysalis, which provides employment services to nearly 2,300 homeless individuals a year throughout Los Angeles and Santa Monica.
“Our organization’s philosophy is that a steady job is the single most important step in a person’s transition to long-term self-sufficiency,” said Adlai Wertman, the agency’s president and CEO.
“We simply could not accomplish that task without organizations like the Santa Monica Chamber and local businesses that are willing to work hand-in-hand with us to make it a reality,” he said.
While the program is in its infancy, one person has already landed an internship as a painter through a local condominium and apartment leasing company, whose owner is a chamber member, Chrysalis officials said.
“We’re looking at the long-term benefit,” said Rick Stoff, Chrysalis’ director of business and partnership. “No matter how many people get hired, there’s the whole feeling we are doing something. All businesses we have talked to said they like the idea of a proactive approach.”
The program only works with those individuals -- mostly from Santa Monica -- who are motivated to work and have sought help from other homeless agencies, but need continued support to get back on their feet.
“You can’t go directly from the streets to work,” Stoff said. “People usually come to us from other programs and have received some sort of temporary housing or treatment. Basically they’ve put some of their domestic issues in order so they can focus on getting work.”
Participating businesses will pay an hourly fee for each worker to Chrysalis, which handles the payroll, workers compensation, liability insurance and bonding, according to the non-profit.
While internship opportunities include clerical, maintenance, kitchen, warehouse and other customer support positions, some jobs -- such as cashiers -- are not suited for those in the program, Stoff said.
So far the program has focused on Downtown businesses, including those in Santa Monica Place and on the Third Street Promenade. However, there are plans to expand the program, and the chamber has launched a door-to-door campaign to promote the initiative.
“We promise to share the results with other chambers and business groups,” Dodson said.
Those who would like more information about the program should contact Rick Stoff at 310-392-4117, ext. 322.
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