Las Vegas Sun

November 14, 2018

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Las Vegas homeless are finding steady jobs, thanks in part to this foundation

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FIT

Janet Blumen, CEO of the Foundation for an Independent Tomorrow, and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta are shown during his recent Las Vegas visit to announce grants designed to help ex-prisoners get back into society.

William Mitchell lost his manufacturing job in California and was evicted from his house. He moved to Las Vegas for a fresh start.

But Mitchell didn’t have his birth certificate or Social Security card, meaning he could not obtain a Nevada identification card that was needed for steady employment. The odd jobs he worked weren’t enough to prevent becoming homeless and he said he turned to drugs to numb himself to the situation.

That all changed after a Metro Police officer turned him onto the Las Vegas Rescue Mission. There he discovered the Foundation for an Independent Tomorrow, and his life slowly started to head back in the right direction.

The foundation, which has been in Las Vegas since 1997, helps unemployed and underemployed Nevadans work toward financial stability. It offers individual mentoring, career guidance, and employment-related services to help clients identify career options and take steps to achieve self-sufficiency.

In those two decades of operating, the program has helped about 4,000 people obtain full-time jobs, including 408 in the last year. Mitchell’s job is working for the program in maintenance.

Mitchell credits the foundation for “helping me get back into the 9-to-5 workflow.” He learned job skills and obtained a forklift operation certificate all while residing at the mission. The program also provided bus passes for transportation to work.

He also become sober in the mission’s clean-living program.

“It’s been nice having a steady job,” Mitchell said.

The foundation also works with former prisoners who are looking for employment.

U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta visited the foundation last month to announce a pair of $1.5 million grants designed to help ex-prisoners get back into society. One grant is for those ages 18-24, which is a segment of the population previously unserved, said Janet Blumen, the foundation’s founder and CEO.

“They have all of the barriers everybody has to become employed, but they have the additional barrier of the fact that they committed crime and were in prison,” Blumen said. “That creates a whole other set of issues. It’s an interesting population but one we are really proud to serve.”

The grants will play a vital role for the group as they rely on grants and donations to operate. The goal is to have more success stories like Mitchell.

Mitchell now lives in a home provided by the Las Vegas Rescue mission, where he has his own bedroom and shares with others who have successfully passed their clean-living program and who can pay the monthly rent.

“It’s nice to have space of my own again, my personal space,” he said. “There’s also a few other people who live there, who I can talk to when I need advice or am feeling lonely.”

Content with having a full-time job now, Mitchell said he’s mulled over the possibility of taking classes at CSN, but is grateful for where he is.

“I’m just glad everything has worked out like it has,” Mitchell said. “Without the rescue mission and FIT, none of this would be possible. I can’t thank them enough.”

For more information on FIT visit its website.