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October 19th, 2019

stepping stone employment centerThese computers sit in the main room of Stepping Stone Shelter and are part of the shelter’s new employment center now open for clients. L&T photo/Robert PierceROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times


Many people who are without a home are more than likely without a job as well. Liberal’s Stepping Stone Shelter is now doing something to help out in both areas.

Started about two years ago, the shelter now has an employment center. Director Bambi Jones said the idea came from something she saw at Stepping Stone she did not like.

“When I got here, people were required to be out of the shelter from 9 to noon and 1 to 5 seeking employment,” she said. “I wasn’t real fond of that because they’re trying to change their lives. I just felt like people could maybe fall back in some of their old ways if they were out just wandering around town.”

Jones said many of these people would go to the nearby Memorial Library and hang out there, something she did not agree with, so she believed having an employment center would be an easier way to help her clients succeed.

“We could help them with employment applications,” she said. “We could help them build resumes. They could stay here at the shelter. They’d find fewer temptations out there.”

Computers for the employment center were donated by Seward County Community College, and Jones said Stepping Stone officials are thankful for that donation.

“We have three of them, and it really has worked out well being able to have that here because we’re more accessible to our residents to be able to guide them and direct them and help them set up permanent employment and permanent residency,” she said. “It helps quite a bit with that kind of stuff.”

The computers are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and Jones said she believes they are also open for those hours on Saturday. That time, she said, is for people who may already have a job but still need to turn things in via the Internet and e-mail

“It’s open to be accessible to them, and they hop on there,” she said. “There’s things they can’t get to, so they can’t watch certain things. It’s definitely controlled by the shelter a little bit. We don’t want them lollygagging on there. They get on there, and they can just job search. A lot of them job search through Indeed, and if they have questions or they need copies of resumes, we just help them do that.”

Jones said having the employment center makes clients and shelter workers more accessible to each other, particular if clients need assistance.

“I love the library,” she said. “The library has a great partnership with the shelter in a lot of things, but there, they don’t necessarily have that obligation to help our residents. We feel it should be our obligation anyways. We like to kind of help them in that way.”

In the short time the employment center has been in place, Jones said results are already being seen.

“Over the time of having the employment center, we’ve seen more people are here at the shelter, and they’re not getting out there and just wandering around,” she said. “They’re more focused on looking for employment. They can search for rental houses on there. We have a spot up there that has other agencies’ pamphlets. We post jobs up there when they come open that we find. It’s made it to where they become more focused on their future versus just hanging out.”

Jones said along with the computers, SCCC donated the equipment to go with them, and other than these items, there is not much of a budget to keep the employment center running.

“They donated chips to go inside to be able to connect to our WiFi, and that’s part of our regular administrative stuff anyways,” she said. “They have a separate guest account they use. That’s funded through our normal operations. I believe they put on the spyware and antiviruses. They really set up and got it going for us with no additional costs. It was amazing, and we were so grateful to get it.”

Jones said this is just one of the ways she is hoping to redefine what a homeless shelter is.

“The homeless shelter system out there is very rough in a lot of places,” she said. “Most shelters you see are one-night stays. People wait on the streets for hours and days and sometimes even months just to be on a list to stay one night. They shower and get fed, and they stay one night and they’re out. There’s other shelters that are three days, 10 days. This is part of the program where we really want to see them concentrate on their permanent future versus just a short-term solution.”

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