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Harmony House’s employment program has best month in 5 years

August 28, 2018 GMT

HUNTINGTON — This month is the fifth anniversary of the Jobs First program at Harmony House in Huntington, and the organization celebrated placing more formerly homeless people into jobs than any other month since the program started.

“We are celebrating our five-year anniversary, and we just had our best month ever,” said Bill Rosenberger, director of development at Harmony House. “We had 20 job placements to 15 different employers.”

Harmony House, located in the 600 block of 4th Avenue, has served thousands of homeless individuals and families by providing one-stop access to a variety of helpful services.

One of those services is the grant-funded Jobs First program that was launched in 2013.

“We have placed over 650 people in jobs since the program began,” said Beth Smith, the Jobs First program coordinator at Harmony House. That equates to an average of about 11 job placements per month during that time.

Smith said one of the biggest barriers for a person experiencing homelessness is income.

“How can you pay rent and utilities, shop for groceries and live life without a sustainable income?” she said. “We evaluate their homeless status and then begin working on getting the things they need to be able to get a job.”

Smith said the program focuses on helping clients find and secure employment in the Tri-State. Services include mock job interviews, resume writing, online application assistance, interview attire, bus passes, job coaching and uniform assistance, once hired.

“We help them get their ID and Social Security card, which are two very important elements prior to getting a job,” Smith explained. “We work with them on removing the barriers that have prevented them from gaining and retaining employment in the past.”

Smith said her team now averages 10 to 15 placements each month, with clients working in such fields as hospitality, health care, retail, call center, customer service, construction, roofing and food service.

“Our goal is to get them a job, get them to retain that job and get them housed,” she said.

One of the program’s success stories comes from 41-year-old Rhonda Michelle Adkins of the Guyandotte area of Huntington.

“I was in a domestic violence situation, so I went to Branches and they referred me to Harmony House,” Adkins said. “Beth and her staff were amazing. They offered me training and also helped me to get my confidence back. They really changed my life for the better, and I don’t know where I would be without them.”

Adkins said the Jobs First program made her believe she could accomplish her goals of employment and independence as long as she put in the work.

“I am employed full-time and also go to Huntington Junior College, where I am majoring in substance abuse assistant counseling,” she said.

Adkins said her goal now is to pay it forward by helping others.

“I am a brand new person now and I want others to know that if I can change my life and better myself, then they can too,” she said.

Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD.