People experiencing homelessness, unhoused youth included, often face significant challenges when it comes to finding employment such as lack of access to transportation to and from interviews, no permanent address to write on applications, no funds for interview attire, possible prejudice from employers, and more.
To support their ability to obtain work, The Night Ministry hosted a job fair in March for unhoused young adults at The Crib, the agency's overnight shelter for young people, in partnership with Central States SER/SERCO, a Cook County-based workforce education and development organization.
"We wanted to bring employment opportunities to the young people we serve. We know how hard it is to go online, apply for a job, and wait for an answer," said Anthony Monterroso, Manager of Youth Engagement Services.
On the day of the event, 18 employers came to the shelter to discuss job opportunities, provide applications, and talk them about the benefits of employment with their organizations. Among those present were Rush University Medical Center, BMO Bank, Amazon, and the Chicago Police Department. The jobs on offer included baker, bank teller, police officer, and crossing guard.
"There was something here for everybody. The job opportunities were very diverse," said Monterroso,.
Young people from across The Night Ministry's Youth Programs attended, including Nicholas, who learned about the fair while staying at The Crib. When asked why he was attending, he shared he was underemployed. "I only worked 8 hours last week and that's kind of been the trend. Honestly, I was trying to get another job," he said.
Fellow client Montrevia was looking for a new position too. Though also employed, she was hoping to find a role with greater stability and had prepared for the day's event with help from The Night Ministry staff, including Monterroso. "He helped me create my resume. He also told me what documents I would most likely need," she said. "He just gave me ways to be more comfortable and just be myself instead of being nervous or scared to apply."
Some of the young people attending also took part in a career preparation day, hosted one month prior by The Night Ministry and designed to help them get ready for the job fair. During Career Prep Day, clients met with staff, volunteers, and members of The Night Ministry's Associate Board for resume building tips, mock interviews, and professional headshots.
Because of the career prep day and the job fair, many clients received multiple invitations to interview for positions.
"It was a refreshing experience for the young people to see that there are individuals out there that are not only looking to hire, but that care," said Monterroso. "The employers were very open to conversation with the young people. They were very accommodating, warm, kindhearted, very willing to listen, and maybe even give them opportunities."