Every September in the U.S., there’s a celebration for Labor Day that pays tribute to the social and economic achievements of American workers. Yet, not everyone is provided or given the same opportunities to thrive. Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada understands this and recognizes that people have different life circumstances and needs.
And while not every unemployed person may want a job, many struggle to overcome the barriers to employment. In many cases, individuals can’t find work because they don’t have a permanent address, correct forms of identification, access to showers, hygiene items or clean clothes. Some also have a criminal background or suffer from mental illness and addiction.
Helping someone overcome these barriers could be as simple as providing them with a warm meal or directing them to resources like housing assistance or workforce development. Here’s how Catholic Charities aims to do just that.
Building Equity In Employment Opportunities
Nevada’s unemployment rate reached 4.4% in July 2022, according to the most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics research. And although Nevada has recovered almost all of its jobs since the pandemic started, this percentage remains significantly higher than in other states.
Many factors come into play when it comes to unemployment, including housing affordability and higher living costs. In 2021, Reno-Sparks median housing prices reached an all-time high, and U.S. inflation skyrocketed, which has caused many to live paycheck to paycheck.
Because of this, Catholic Charities has pivoted and gotten creative with its programs and services, ensuring that clients and community members have equitable access to employment opportunities.
Fighting Misconceptions Of “They’re Just Lazy”
Nicole Koehler-White, Program Director for Workforce Development at Catholic Charities, actively works with individuals and families to overcome some of these barriers.
“We create step-by-step plans to assist clients with reaching their goals while providing encouragement and support throughout the process,” Koehler-White said about Catholic Charities’ workforce development strategies.
Every year, Catholic Charities provides job acquisition support to more than 1,800 individuals by helping them obtain the necessary documents needed for employment, such as social security cards, birth certificates, and state identification cards. The biggest misconception about people who are unemployed is that they’re lazy or they just don’t want to work, Koehler-White explained.
Helping Vulnerable Populations Find Shelter
In reality, higher living costs and inflation has caused community members to be at risk of homelessness due to possible eviction and being unable to afford transportation. Susan Cameron, Social Worker, and Director for the Homelessness Prevention Program at Catholic Charities, also talked about how housing instability can affect employment opportunities.
“It is extremely difficult to maintain employment when you don’t know where you’ll be sleeping on any given night,” Cameron said. “Many people experiencing homelessness also lack access to a phone or computer, which makes searching for a job extremely challenging.”
In February 2021, Reno’s Point-In-Time (PIT) count reported 780 unsheltered individuals, 697 in emergency shelters, and 231 in transitional housing—almost double from the previous year.
To help reduce this number, Catholic Charities provides rental assistance that’s designed to prevent homelessness and substance abuse. That’s because sustained recovery from a substance use disorder requires meaningful and purposeful work-life balance, according to the National Library of Medicine.
Through Catholic Charities’ Battle Born Housing Plus Program, residents receive wraparound support services, including case management, substance abuse counseling, onsite drug and alcohol testing, behavioral health support, employment support, work opportunities, and other services.
Setting Clients Up For Success
With transportation also a top concern, Catholic Charities’ clients have had to carpool, walk, and bike more. They’ve also been requesting bus passes and taxi fares to avoid the high cost of gas.
“As a nonprofit organization, our funds are often limited, but when we are able, we can provide bus passes to those who can confirm they’re employed,” Cameron said.
Catholic Charities also believes that people who are seeking employment shouldn’t have to worry about buying new interview clothes. Clients and community members can find gently used clothing items, including appropriate work attire, at one of the two thrift stores.
St. Vincent’s Resource Hub can also provide essential hygiene items, such as adult disposable underwear, baby wipes, backpacks, body lotion, body wash, bus passes, diapers, deodorant, feminine hygiene products, laundry soap, shampoo and conditioner, sunscreen, and suitcases.
To make a difference in the lives of community members struggling with barriers to employment in Northern Nevada, please consider supporting one of Catholic Charities programs. If you or someone you know needs assistance, please contact us here or call (775) 322-7073 ext. 330.
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