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Homeless competing for jobs against the 7.6 percent unemployed

6:28 PM, Feb 19, 2013   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Latest numbers show that 7.6 percent of residents in Jacksonville are unemployed and within that percentage, there are thousands that are also homeless and they are also competing for jobs.

"I kept my apartment for about a month after I lost my job and then it ended up me being homeless," said Latonya Cantrell, who is living at the Sulzbacher Center for the Homeless.

A few months ago, 26-year-old Cantrell said she was having health problems with low blood circulation and couldn't walk for almost two weeks. She lost her job and soon, no income meant she was late with her rent. For the last four months, she's been living at the Sulzbacher Center and she has been trying to get back to work.

"I've done anywhere between 50 to 100 applications," said Cantrell.

At the center, Cantrell has completed interview skill courses, training and still hasn't found a job. More than 300 residents live at the Sulzbacher Center and only 25 percent are employed.

"Over the last four years, given the recession, our biggest challenge here is finding people jobs. We're looking to do three things when someone comes into the Sulzbacher Center for them to be self-sufficient; we're looking to find them income, find them housing, and find them access to healthcare," said Cindy Funkhouser, CEO, Sulzbacher Center.

Because of the challenges residents face looking for work, the average stay time for residents has increased from 53 days to over 90 days. About 90 families are on the waiting list to get into the program, but they can't get in until people start moving out and that's hard to do if you don't have a job or you're making minimum wage.

"Some of the jobs are minimum wage, but the last two jobs we placed were over nine dollars an hour, which that's a pretty good wage to start out at and we encourage them not to stop there," said Suzanne Bonfanti, Senior Director of Business Development and Career Education for the Sulzbacher Center.

Bonfanti's position was created specifically to help residents find jobs. More training programs coming soon will help residents learn about customer service and call centers. So the center is preparing people like Cantrell who want to work just need to be hired.

There are more than 4,000 homeless people in Jacksonville. Last year, the Sulzbacher Center placed residents in their program in 600 households; almost 50 residents were moving out every month.

If you're looking for a job, there are positions open at the Sulzbacher Center. Click here to view jobs.

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