Employment can hold different meanings to different people. For some, it is the result of years of study and sacrifice, a realization of their ambition and dreams. Others may consider their jobs just that: a means by which they fund a lifestyle outside of work, whether it is to support a family or to finance an assortment of interests. Still others may perceive their employment as transitory, a mechanism to explore themselves and their place in the world.
At Project HOME, we consider employment a key pillar – joining housing, medical care, and education – in a structure of self-actualization and dignity that allows our community members to experience a deeper sense of recovery and personal meaning. This philosophy animates the programs and initiatives offered through Project HOME’s Employment Services department.
Our Daily Threads (ODT) thrift store, one of three social enterprises operated by Employment Services – the others being the HOME Page Café and Library Attendant Service, both located in the Central Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. These businesses actively exemplify the mission of Project HOME. Over the years, the store at 1515 Fairmount Avenue has grown from a primarily volunteer-run enterprise to one fully staffed by five hourly employees, all of whom are formerly homeless and using their experience to re-acclimate themselves to the working world.
“I have a place,” said Ocie Laurel, a sales associate at ODT for the last three years. “I have initiative to be about other things, being homeless for ten years; my work gives me another perspective when I have things that bother me from time to time.”
Picking up on Ocie’s point, while some of the responsibilities at Our Daily Threads may seem to typify the so-called “daily grind” aspect of workaday life – counting the register, pulling out racks of clothing, and arranging scarves along a makeshift display – it cannot compare to the grinding work folks like Ocie put in as they pulled themselves out of homelessness. And the perspective of which Ocie speaks is one born out from the experience of homelessness – and the knowledge that his work has enabled him to both transcend the heavy stigma of homelessness and take comfort in the sense of purpose that arises from meaningful occupation.
And the work is meaningful. For someone like C.B. Williams, an ODT sales associate for nearly five years, his position has supported his sustainable recovery by providing daily structure, direction, and transferable skills. Most importantly, C.B. now has a better sense of himself and his capabilities.
“I didn’t know I had the strength to go on here for five years,” he said.
Your donations to and patronage of Project HOME’s social businesses provide very important avenues of support to both Project HOME’s community members and the neighborhoods in which they are located. You help to ensure our employees stay employed while also strengthening local businesses. So stop by the Café for a cup of coffee, or drop off a bag or two of gently-used clothing at ODT. Visit us online for more info on our social enterprises or our Employment Services department.
Jenna Bryant is the manager of the Our Daily Threads Thrift Store.