Jobs Connect provides vehicle, transports people out of homelessness

By United Way of King County, on March 29, 2016 | In Fighting Homelessness

The shiny white van with the swooping red-and-blue logo is a mobile billboard for moving people struggling with homelessness off the streets and into a job.

The 16-seater Chevy serves as both courier and clarion for Jobs Connect, a new initiative of United Way of King County that reaches out to unsheltered homeless adults with an offer and opportunity to work. In the most recent One Night Count of homeless individuals in King County, more than 4,500 people were living without shelter. Jobs Connect makes the link between employment and housing, putting individuals on a path to earn a steady paycheck and secure a stable home.

Still in its start-up phase, the Jobs Connect program begins at 5 a.m. when Lynda Kellems of Millionair Club Charity turns the ignition and takes the van out for a 30-minute sweep through downtown Seattle. She makes five designated stops, picking up individuals who have spent the night sleeping on Seattle’s streets and view employment as their opportunity out of homelessness.

Jobs Connect gives dozens of people a strong start to the morning with:
• A cheery ‘Good Morning!’ from staff
• A locker to store your belongings
• Coffee and a hot breakfast
• A ride to work

The personalized shuttle service ends in Belltown, where Lynda drops off her passengers at the Millionair Club Charity, a United Way partner that has been connecting homeless individuals with work in our community since 1921.

Carrying everything they own in bags or on their backs, the passengers stash their belongings in lockers before fueling up with coffee and a hot breakfast. They change into their work clothes, grab a sack lunch, then hop in the van for a short ride to the Metropolitan Improvement District (MID) office on Stewart Street. There, they begin a full day as members of the MID’s maintenance ambassador crews, keeping downtown Seattle’s sidewalks clean.

While they are at work, Lynda drives the Jobs Connect van around town in an outreach effort. Her mission is to encourage more individuals living on the streets of Seattle to register for Jobs Connect and, by extension, introduce them to the range of employment, housing assistance and other services offered through the Millionair Club Charity.

Despite having built an impressive network of more than 1,000 businesses to place homeless individuals in short-term or seasonal jobs, the Millionair Club Charity sometimes is unable to meet employer demand for temporary staffing. Jobs Connect aims to rectify that.

“With Jobs Connect, we are able to target vulnerable people that are unfamiliar with our services and provide a portal for them to participate,” said Jim Miller, Millionair Club executive director. “The participants in our existing employment programs came through our doors after hearing about us usually through word of mouth. Jobs Connect is different in that it reaches out and lets us bring our message directly to the streets. We want unsheltered adults to know that there is an avenue out of homelessness, and that’s through work.”


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