A Massachusetts state budget that is "about people"

April 30, 2019
- Peter Gagliardi, President and CEO

On Thursday, April 12, The Republican reported on the state budget recommendations from the House Ways and Means Committee. House Ways and Means Chairman Jeffrey Sanchez, D-Boston, was quoted as saying that budget "is all about people, and meeting people where they're at in their own lives and figuring out with them how they can be successful in the commonwealth and participate in this booming economy."

At Way Finders, we too are about meeting people where they are in their own lives. Many of the people we meet are homeless or in grave danger of becoming homeless. Recognizing that finding a stable job and learning employable skills leads to greater self-sufficiency and the ability to sustain a home, Way Finders has partnered in a program called Secure Jobs. Through this particular program we have seen hundreds of people get on a road to self-sufficiency that leads to finding a stable home, and, in some cases, even homeownership.

Under Secure Jobs, we have helped more than 560 people to become employed over the past five years. Currently, the average starting wage is $13.47 per hour. As a result, these families have been able to stabilize their housing situation, moving from a precarious situation or even homelessness to having a home. Because our housing stabilization staff works with families for up to 12 months, we also know that, at the end of the first year, 80-90 percent are still employed. Within that first year, we find that some have received pay increases and a number have been promoted.

In helping people find employment, we first learn about "where they are". What are the circumstances? What is their education and employment history? What kind of work is most suitable in terms of their skills and interests? What are their strengths? What are the obstacles that need to be overcome?

Our staff serves as mentors, coaches, and cheerleaders for the folks who are doing the work to help their families move forward. People are motivated to live in a more stable situation, to move beyond homelessness. By providing information and support, we can help them connect the dots. We help them find the way.

Chairman Sanchez's comment goes to the heart of the work that we do. We are committed to helping all our clients improve their economic situation to the extent that they are able. We believe in their ability to move forward.

At this moment in time, when local employers are seeking employees and when literally hundreds of jobs are available, the region is poised to take advantage of a unique opportunity to bring many of our neighbors into the "booming state economy." Through the efforts of "Springfield Works," the Regional Employment board, the region's career centers, community colleges, and major employers such as MGM, families who have had few opportunities in the recent past have the opportunity to grow and to thrive.

We at Way Finders find inspiration in the chairman's words and in the budget proposed by the Ways and Means Committee. We look forward to doing our part in partnership with others and with the support of the Commonwealth.