Workforce Development Partnership

Southside Center of Hope recently partnered with HHPLift to offer a Workforce Development Program. HHPLift is a nonprofit social enterprise with a mission to forge economic independence through workforce and business opportunities for people overcoming barriers to fair wage employment.

Yaisa Hagood, Executive Director of Southside Center of Hope, believes “this workforce development partnership is a great opportunity for the women we serve, especially given the barriers they face when it comes to obtaining employment. By leveraging our shared expertise and resources, we will be able to make an even greater impact.”

Pictured in Photo: Residents Victoria, Litsiea and Deshawn. Also, featured HHPLift employees Alejandra and Catherine.

The program is the first of its kind for Southside Center of Hope. While the agency has partnered with workforce organizations like Cara Chicago for decades, historically women in the program had to wait for 3-6 months to seek job training and employment services.

Yaisa expressed the importance of this new partnership, stating that “Holding a job is a huge step in recovery. Working encourages people in recovery to become self-supporting and builds their self-esteem. Working keeps them busy and gives them a regular schedule that builds a routine and structure into their day. Navigating recovery can be difficult. Staying occupied with a new routine also lessens the possibility of them putting themselves in high-risk situations.

Southside Center of Hope began exploring workforce development programs in January 2019, but the COVID-19 pandemic slowed progress. “Having the benefit of time, allowed us to find the right organization to partner with. HHPLift understands our work and given the organization’s history of working with individuals from disadvantaged communities who are seeking to re-enter society, they are sensitive to the population we serve. I was also excited about the opportunity for the women to learn about entrepreneurship,” said Hagood.

Dena Hirschberg, President and CEO of HHPLift, is also excited about the partnership. “We believe a job alone is never going to be enough. Barriers to employment that existed prior to employment may still exist even with employment.  So, it’s critical to provide not just sector-based skills training, but also build executive function development skills, and provide leadership training and career development to succeed, to grow, and to lift!” Together with our wonderful LiftWorks™ team, which includes Co-Directors Ava Berry and Alejandra Camargo, and Catherine Cox who helped design the curriculum, we worked to create an innovative program that promotes economic independence and self-sufficiency, including job training, entrepreneurial support, and other workforce opportunities.”

HHPLift created a new program under its Lift Works™” program that is dedicated to women served at Southside Center of Hope called “Get Set™”. This program lasts 13 weeks and pays the women the Chicago minimum wage of $14.50 an hour while providing a set curriculum including lessons on email etiquette, logistics/fulfillment, inventory management, business development, and market research.

Starting a new job or returning to work after many years can be challenging for anyone, especially women in recovery, the partnership with HHPLift provides a kind, gentle, and supportive environment while re-introducing them to the workforce.  ““We want to create a space that lets our associates think beyond their experience, to know there are opportunities beyond what they think… because that’s what creates hope,” said Hirschberg.

Residents of Southside Center of Hope had to interview with HHPLift and three women were hired. Deshawn Bush, one of the three women hired, expressed that she has never had this type of opportunity. “I didn’t know what a spreadsheet was, and I had never sent an email. I’m learning these things and so much more,” explained Deshawn.

While there are many benefits to working, Southside Center of Hope understands the importance of women focusing on their recovery in the early stages. The program with HHPLift is for women in Phase I, which last on average for 3 to 4 months. The participants work 2 half days a week. During this time, they are also required to attend Intensive Outpatient Treatment, make 2 Narcotics or Alcoholics Anonymous meetings weekly, and meet with their sponsor at least once a week.

“I’m confident we are sensitive to the women’s needs and will not overwhelm them. HHPLift is checking in with them. They attend groups in the evenings and have an assigned Recovery Coach who is checking in with them. The goal is to increase their quality of life,” said Yaisa.

This is a pilot program, that Southside Center of Hope and HHPLift hope will expand in the future. “We were fortunate to receive a one-time grant from Bank of America to fund the program. My hope is that by showing funders the impact and its potential to impart positive change on women in recovery, we will be able to get funding for the workforce development program to continue,” said Yaisa Hagood.

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