St. Joseph the Worker helps underprivileged become self-sufficient
St. Joseph the Worker helps low-income and those experiencing homelessness become self-sufficient through employment and to find housing.
Carrie Masters, CEO of St. Joseph the Worker, and George Childs, Workforce Villages Program Manager, discussed the work the nonprofit is involved in.
“The Workforce Villages Program is a 90-day transitional housing program for those who are working but housing insecure,” Childs said. Program participants attend budgeting, meal planning and nutrition and financial literacy courses.
“What we have found, somewhere around 30% to 40% of that population, who are actually employed are living in what we call ‘The Zone,’ and others are maybe sleeping on their mom’s couch or something like that, but just looking for a way to get ahead and be able to move into their own housing,” Childs said.
The program has helped more than 35,000 individuals since its establishment in 1988. The group connects employed people experiencing homelessness or housing insecurities with support services, allowing them to save enough money to afford their own housing without any assistance. Participants are required to work at least 35 hours per week and make a minimum of $17 an hour, and 80% of their paycheck goes into savings.
“It’s a 90-day pause for the individual to focus on work. You don’t have to focus on how are you going to have a roof over your head, how do you get food, really it’s just, ‘All I have to do for the next 90 days is work and save my money so I have the ability to move into my own place under my own name,'” Masters said.
Masters said during this 90-day period, participants can save an average of $4,000, which equals to about first and last months rent in Arizona.
“That’s really where people are struggling. They just need the ability to save that so they can get into their own place,” Masters said.
The program started in July of 2020 in response to the pandemic and the amount of unsheltered individuals who were employed and living in “The Zone.” Masters said the program has been “life-changing” for graduates that complete the program, and close to 80% of them are successfully housed after a year.