For folks struggling to get by, the threat of losing your home is a constant fear and a periodic reality. At the Little Rock nonprofit Our House, the core mission for more than 30 years has been helping residents of central Arkansas who have lost their homes — or who are at risk of doing so — succeed at work. Through its Career Center, the organization assists adults in finding jobs, building careers and achieving lasting self-sufficiency. “Our House empowers homeless and near-homeless families and individuals to succeed in the workforce, in school and in life through hard work, wise decision-making and active participation in the community,” says Executive Director Ben Goodwin.
With job training and educational support, the Career Center prepares clients for above-minimum-wage positions in fields such as the culinary arts, commercial-vehicle driving and health care. Once placed, participants receive on-going support as well as access to courses in financial literacy and physical and mental wellness. The coronavirus pandemic took a heavy toll on the Our House community — 65% of the members lost their jobs or saw their hours reduced, and more than two-thirds reported increased stress because of health concerns, financial insecurity and social isolation. “Every family we serve was affected in profound ways by the disruptions, compounding the difficulty of making a successful journey out of homelessness,” Goodwin notes.
Our House is expanding job training services to meet the added demand, helped by a grant from Bank of America, part of the bank’s $1.25 billion, five-year commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity. Over the next three years, Our House will enhance its virtual resources, expand career-reentry training programs and build a race-equity culture at the organization. “Despite all the challenges they face, we know that our clients have tremendous drive and ability to make amazing contributions to our community,” Goodwin says, “and we appreciate Bank of America sharing this vision.”