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L.A. Bell Shelter Goes Into New Job Training

By Captain Carol Seiler –

The Salvation Army will soon launch an innovative program to address work readiness for homeless adults. Additional Federal warehouse space near Bell Shelter has made possible a learning center, to open in April. The Economic Recovery Program (ERP) will produce marketable goods in the process of education, letting clients develop inter-personal and job maintenance skills as opposed to trade skills.

This concept was the vision of John J. Horne, executive director of Harbor Light/Bell Shelter. Horne presented to the City of Los Angeles and the divisional headquarters staff the urgent reality that clients often work through recovery or skill-building classes, only to lose employment after a short time because of failure to perform basic work behaviors.

The Army could create an environment where people can be allowed to fail in a work setting, then be given the chances they need with direction and standards of performance until it is ingrained in them to report to work on time, to handle conflicts, to have social etiquette–in other words, to be able to function in any work setting.

Horne, with the help of key program staff such as Benjamin Mayo (Ph.D., CCDS) Bell Shelter Director Siggi Busha, and ERP Manager Patrick Mellon, has written a curriculum with objectives outlined for communication, socialization, health and hygiene, and safety. Each homeless adult who is successfully through Harbor Light’s Recovery Program or Bell Shelter will have a diagnostic checklist to measure strengths and weaknesses, providing a performance level checklist. The student, paid as a temporary employee, will work on the curriculum objectives while producing contracted piecework. This makes the effort meaningful while allowing the controlled work environment to be monitored by Salvation Army staff.

“Communication” includes issues such as responding intelligently to questions, displaying professional behavior, awareness of non-verbal communication and responding to direction. “Socialization” includes respect for work, clarification of personal values, plan for the future, respect for dignity of others, and good work habits. “Health and Hygiene” includes basics such as cleanliness, appropriate dress, social/ethnic customs, socially acceptable behavior with both sexes, avoiding profanity and understanding the consequences of health habits.

Currently, the ERP will produce mailboxes, and income generated will pay the wages and enhance financial support of the residential component of Harbor Light. A week after Lt. Colonel Alfred R. Van Cleef, divisional commander, toured the test operation, a 24-slot mailbox was presented to him. Divisional and city staff (Captain Carol Seiler, Steve Allen, Bruce Allan) have worked through a variety of questions and challenges with Van Cleef’s support of this innovative pilot project.

“The Southern California Division has a reputation for pushing the edge of the envelope,” he said, “and this project could move us into the front lines as welfare reform forces re-examine social service program components.”

The average client will stay in the program for 90 days.

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