One of the major obstacles to maintaining sobriety is lack of employment. For the women of Wayside House, that obstacle is quickly vanishing, thanks to the opening of the Tina Posner Center for Career Excellence. Since opening its doors in May, the center has helped 92 women prepare for the job market and 42 of those have already gained employment. Many of the others will have jobs when they leave the residential program, thanks to the Posner Center.
The help comes thanks to a $500,000, five-year grant from the Gail S. Posner Foundation. Wayside House was selected from among many applicant organizations that sought the funding. Currently, the center works with women in the second phase of Wayside House’s 90-day residential program, those in the organization’s outpatient programs, and alumni.
In the modern, brightly decorated center, women can use new computers to search for jobs. They can attend workshops to learn resume writing techniques, get assistance with filling out job applications, and receive mock job interviews from experts. They are also given continuing education resources, and learn financial responsibility –how to make the most of their paychecks. Additionally, Wayside House has forged a partnership with Dress for Success which is a non-profit organization that promotes the independence of disadvantaged women and will assist in helping job-seekers select work-appropriate attire. Each woman can select one outfit for job interviews; when they are hired, each selects five outfits – one for each day of the week to get them started in their jobs. Wayside also collects donations of business attire including shoes, purses, belts, etc. and maintains a Posner closet for those last minute interview or job application needs. Each client is given an opportunity to go into the closet and find whatever she needs to look professional during a job search.
Wayside House has also partnered with Hair Design Institute, a cosmetology school in Boynton Beach, to give job-seekers a one-time service – anything from a haircut, hair coloring, manicure, and makeup. Each woman can select up to three services.
For Marlies Jones, the center’s director, the Posner Center is a dream come true. In previous positions, Ms. Jones focused on helping women with addictions find work. The center allows her to take that dream to new heights. Ninety-five percent of those getting jobs are doing so through the Center, she said.
When women leave treatment, the initial goal is to get them a job, just some type of employment that allows them to get on their feet and be financially stable, Ms. Jones explained. This entry-level “recovery” job is to sustain them financially, but allow time for them to continue their recovery journey in outpatient programs and halfway house living. Later, when they are stable and well into recovery, the focus becomes on a career. “My goal is to get them out of that recovery job after one year of getting sober,” said Ms. Jones.
Ms. Jones has also sought out local businesses to become “recovery friendly” – being open to hiring women with addictions coming out of Wayside House. The Posner Center has directly helped 10 women find such jobs; another 21 women have used the Center as an educational resource, following leads obtained at Posner and securing their own jobs.
The resources of the Posner Center become part of the women’s weekly routine once they reach Phase II of treatment. Each week they go to workshops regarding interviewing skills, budgeting, work ethic, and self-assessments to help them decide a career path later. Also, weekly, they attend a resume-writing workshop and, each woman receives coaching and empowerment from Ms. Jones. She checks in on job searchers to determine where they have applied, helps them send interview thank you notes and helps with continued job searches.
Those women in intensive outpatient (IOP), aftercare, and alumni are also served, receiving the same opportunities, one-on-one help in filling out paperwork, and help with resume writing and where to go for financial assistance for those seeking to further their education.
Tracking the success of the women is also important. With the help of volunteers, Ms. Jones keeps track of the women’s sober date, IOP graduation date, jobs they hold when they leave, and whether they are still working three, six and 12 months later.
Women who receive jobs with recovery-friendly employers also receive ongoing support. When they begin a job, Ms. Jones calls the employer weekly for the first 90 days to ensure that both employer and employee are satisfied.
Gazing at a bulletin board nearly filled with butterflies bearing the names of the growing number of women finding jobs through the Posner center, Ms. Jones expresses her satisfaction with the outcomes so far.
“I’m pleasantly surprised at how many women are getting jobs. The Posner Center is becoming very much an empowering experience; women are discovering that not only can they get a job, but one that they’re interested in. Before, they were desperate; they let life happen to them. Now they get to make choices and feel empowered. It’s making a huge difference for them. Getting a job can make a huge difference in maintaining sobriety.