Second Chances


More than 3 sold out games at Cheney Stadium.
Enough people to fill the Washington State fairgrounds in Puyallup 2 times.
And nearly enough to fill the Tacoma Dome.

What is it? The estimated number of people in Pierce County who are unemployed. Until a few months ago, Randy was one of these people.

Randy was placed in foster care at the age of three after his parents were unable to care for him due to issues with alcoholism. He spent most of his childhood living on a farm in Sequim with his foster family. It was there that Randy developed a strong work ethic and learned how to take care of himself. His days were spent bucking hay, cleaning stalls, building fences, and taking care of farm animals. As a young adult, Randy began to drink heavily and eventually got into trouble with the law. Since then, Randy has had an extremely difficult time finding and keeping a job.

It is a cycle that we see all too often in our line of work. Someone is unable to get hired, which means they can’t pay bills or make ends meet, which eventually leads to losing their home, which often leads to depression, exacerbating substance use and keeping them from getting a job – and the cycle starts all over again. When you have no money, how can you afford the costs of getting a job? Many things that we take for granted, such as transportation, clothes for interviews, a way to shower and stay clean, are all difficult to come by when you are living in poverty.

The job market had changed since Randy last got a job and he did not know how to change with it. The days of just showing up and asking for a chance are long gone, replaced by online applications and automated answering machines in HR departments. While waiting at the bus stop after losing out on yet another job, he saw a flyer for the CAREER program at Pierce County Human Services. With mounting pressure to be more financially responsible for his children and a growing desire to be self-sufficient, he called the number on the flyer and spoke with Family Educator, Glenna.

Randy went through an easy screening process over the phone and made an appointment to meet with Glenna. During their meeting, Randy found out that CAREER stands for Community Action Resource for Education and Employment Readiness.

The CAREER team is made up of social workers and family specialists who help people find jobs, go back to school and break down barriers that keep them from reaching their goals. CAREER is part of our Community Action Programs division that helps people in poverty improve their lives through employment services, minor home repair, weatherization and early childhood education.

Once in the program, Randy began job readiness activities such as updating a resume, creating a cover letter, and practicing mock interviews to learn how to answer hard questions about gaps in employment and criminal history.

Next, he enrolled in the 6-week Strategies for Success workshop that focuses on self-discovery, work-life balance, collaborative communication and improving soft skills needed to become successfully employed. The workshop requires participants to attend 3 hours per day, Monday through Thursday. Glenna and Randy worked together to identify his barriers to employment, and discovered his main problem was transportation. The program provided him with a monthly bus pass that enabled him to attend the workshop, travel to job interviews, and get back to his shelter in time to secure a bed for the night.

After he completed Strategies for Success, Randy was placed at a Work-Based Learning (WBL) site, which provides individuals with up to 240 hours of paid employment. Participants like Randy learn new job skills and gain valuable work experience so important to finding employment.

“I was unable to get a job because of my criminal record, even though it was from 20 years ago. Employers would say they would hire me until they saw my background, then they would fire me or not return my calls. I was a stay-at-home Dad for a number of years because of this and when employers would see my big gaps in work history, I couldn’t get hired. Nobody would give me a chance.”

There are many people, just like Randy, who are not given an opportunity to work because of various barriers. Whether it’s homelessness, addiction, a criminal record, or gaps in work history, it is difficult to find someone who will give them a chance.

WBL sites are an opportunity for employers and job seekers to both be rewarded. Job seekers can improve their confidence, earn some money, and have a chance at a better life. Employers receive a tax credit and can give back to the community by helping someone in need.

Studies show that employment is extremely beneficial to our health and well-being. Glenna has noticed a huge change in Randy since he has become employed. “Randy is so much more confident now.,” says Glenna. “He is talkative and very proud! His relationship with his children has improved and he has something to look forward to.”

If you know someone like Randy, send them our way. For more information call our Community Action Programs division at 253-798-4400, visit us in person at our Soundview office, located at 3602 Pacific Avenue in Tacoma, or check us out on the website.