RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — For a family of four, poverty means living on $24,000 or less every year. In Richmond, a quarter of the population lives in poverty.
The administration of former Mayor Dwight Jones created the Office of Community Wealth Building to tackle the problem.
The office’s main operation at this time is the Center for Workforce Innovation.
“I have been in their shoes,” said Daryl Clark who walked into Richmond’s Center for Workforce Innovation two years ago, fresh out of jail with nothing more than the clothes on his back.
“I didn’t have no job, I didn’t have no resume,” Clark said.
He started customer service classes at the center and soon thereafter, the star student was offered a job helping others at the center.
“I help them go through log-in, search for jobs on the computer,” Clarks said.
The center’s doors are open to everyone and the computers are free to use. But more importantly, people can go there to find information about job openings, advice for career situations, resume clinics, job readiness courses and employment specialists to help them along the way.
An 8News investigation two years ago found that very few people actually ended up utilizing the service, or finding employment through it.
However, when 8News Investigator Kerri O’Brien followed up recently, she found that things have changed drastically.
In 2014, 8News found that only 80 people were in the program, and only 60 of those got jobs, paying only slightly above minimum wage.
In 2016, 263 people participated in the program, and of those, 212 found work and the average job paid close to $10 an hour.
Reggie Gordon, the director of the Office of Community Wealth Building said that the group is moving in the right direction, but is still working toward their goals of getting higher paying jobs for those who seek their help. In addition, he said that the program marks a shift in city policy away from handouts and toward getting people the skills they need to be self-sufficient.
“Do you own a business?” Gordon asked. “Rather than giving children toys, maybe I can hire that mother or that father and realize that people need second and third chances.”
And that has the city calling on businesses in the community to partner with them.
Gordan says the program has grown as others find friends and family finding work. City Council just approved additional funding for the center to hire more employment specialists.