Our House revamps Career Center

Our House revamps Career Center

Photo Caption: Eric Crisp (from left), Cynthia Huff, Kanisha Hatton and Brian Ault congratulate one another Wednesday at the Our House Career Center. The four used Our House opportunities to succeed in the workplace.

Our House revamps career center

LR nonprofit quadruples capacity for job-help programs

Recent renovations to the Our House Career Center will allow the organization to quadruple the number of people it helps with skills training, financial literacy training and job search assistance.

Established in 1987, Our House is a nonprofit organization in Little Rock that assists homeless and near-homeless people by providing programs such as temporary housing, career training, GED equivalency classes and child care.

As many as 120 adults will be able to take advantage of job-assistance programs provided by the career center because of the renovations. That marks a significant increase from the 30 it could accommodate two years ago, said Georgia Mjartan, executive director of Our House.

The career center will include a learning kitchen, an education hub with 10 computers, and an employment hub where people can take part in mock interviews, obtain professional clothing and learn how to build a resume.

“These are things that sound very simple, but for most of my clients they are not,” said Kelly Owen, an employment coach who works in the career center.

The center, which will be open for use May 26, is housed in the old Veterans Affairs ambulance garage, a 7,000-square-foot facility that has been a part of the Our House grounds since 1991.

The area was home to all of Our House’s education programs until 2014, when the $5 million Our House Children’s Center was built. Once the children’s programs moved into the new building, renovations began on the career center, which connected 499 people to jobs in 2015, according to Kent Sorrells, president of the Our House board.

“We immediately started raising funds to just gut and renovate this center and create a hub of employment and training,” Mjartan said.

Fundraising began about a year ago with mailed requests for donations. The center also received donations from people who supported the creation of the new children’s center, Sorrells said.

“Before we ever even put a shovel in the ground to start the renovation, it was fully funded,” he said.

Sorrells said fundraising for the career center — previously known as the Learning Center — even brought in enough money to cover plans for projects to make transportation and parking more efficient. Our House bought a parking lot on Roosevelt Road that will allow vehicles to access the campus through a central entry point.

“That was part of our vision,” Sorrells said. “We weren’t sure we were going to raise all the money to do that as well, but we did.”

The 2015 Point in Time Count showed there were 830 homeless people in Pulaski, Saline, Lonoke and Prairie counties, marking a 22 percent decrease from 2013, when 1,066 homeless people were counted in shelters, camps, resource centers and on the streets, according to Little Rock’s Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report.

The Point in Time Count is a census of the homeless population conducted once a year by Central Arkansas Team Care for the Homeless.

Our House serves more than 1,700 people each year, according to its impact summary report.

Lindsey Cornelius is among those who have benefited from the services provided by Our House.

Cornelius is a recovering drug addict who has been in prison twice — the first time when she was 19. After getting out of prison, she took her now 4-year-old daughter, Addison, from Hope to Little Rock after finding out about Our House online.

“I just had to get out of Hope or something was going to happen,” said Cornelius, who said she hasn’t used drugs in 11 months. “I felt like I was going to end up back in prison.”

After spending six months as a job trainee at Our House, she landed a position as a team leader at Subway four months ago. She used the computer lab to fill out college applications, and she recently completed her first semester at Pulaski Technical College, where she is studying to become a drug and alcohol counselor.

Cornelius lives at Our House with Addison. She has two other children, Ainsley and Jaydyn. Ainsley, 2, was adopted by a family in Delaware. Jaydyn, 8, lives with Cornelius’ parents.

“After I got out of prison, it was just so hard to find a job because of my drug charges that it caused me to stay homeless for a long time until I came to Little Rock, to Our House,” Cornelius said. “They allow, you know, housing. It’s pretty much what I needed to get started.”

After one more year at Our House, Cornelius said, she plans to move into an apartment in Little Rock.

“Since I’ve been here, it’s been nothing but good,” she said.

Metro on 05/19/2016