Jobs academy shows homeless ways to succeed

August 13, 1998|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

They are no longer homeless. They have full-time jobs. They pledged to stay away from drugs and alcohol and they are doing that. They will soon search for their own apartments.

On Sunday, Christopher Place Employment Academy will graduate 24 formerly homeless men, most of them recovering drug addicts or alcoholics, after 12 weeks of transition toward becoming self-sufficient residents. Another 20 will mark a half-year of transition into jobs.

The 44 are among 118 men, who, over the past two years, have completed the academy's independent living curriculum, classes in job and life-readiness skills, such as preparation to earn a high school diploma. All were placed in full-time jobs, and nearly all remain self-sufficient.

"I feel great," said Kirk Sewell, a program assistant at the academy and one of the 24 graduates. "I'm accomplishing a lot. We have a good group. Three of us will probably have our own apartment within a month."

The ceremony, open to family, friends and the public, will be at 4 p.m. at the Catholic Center, 320 Cathedral St. Del. Salima S. Marriott, a city legislator, will speak.

"We are fortunate with this class, because we've had more jobs than men," said Mario Berninzoni, assistant director of the Catholic Charities agency.

"All 24 men have jobs. Some are welding and painting at AAI in Hunt Valley. One man is learning silk-screen printing at Sweetheart Cup Co. One's a chef at Hunt Valley Inn. Another's doing janitorial work at Goodwill Industries. These four companies each employ several of our people.

"We try to help our students develop the structure and skills they will need to remain successful, independent contributors to the community," he said. "Training begins at 9 a.m., and the men retire at 8 p.m. This gets them acclimated to a schedule they will have to keep when they begin working."

The 24 graduates have completed the first quarter of a 12-month training program.

They still live at the academy, at 709 E. Eager St., near the Baltimore City Detention Center, where some were inmates. They must save 75 percent of their income until six months in the program are completed so the funds can be used for rent and other essentials when they live independently.

As they work, they will continue to get sobriety support and career counseling and participate in team-building activities. During the second half-year, they are expected to become steady workers and get used to independent housing while academy volunteers continue to counsel them.

Pub Date: 8/13/98

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