SHAWN LIPSCOMB has spent 13 of his 32 years in prison for two robberies; in one of them he shot and wounded the victim. He says the holdups were to support his cocaine addiction and live the life of â€œthe guys who had the cars, the females and the jewelry.â€ Now, he says, he is determined to become a law-abiding, job-holding member of society.
Lindsey Santos, 18, is a high school dropout who says she fell into heavy marijuana and cocaine use. But she â€œstopped cold turkey because I don’t want to be miserable anymore,â€ she says, and she hopes to earn a high school equivalency diploma and find a vocation.
George Bowman, 61, was â€œdown on my luck,â€ as he puts it. He worked for decades in various jobs, most recently at a store-cleaning company. When that business shut down, though, he was unable to land another job. He attributed his difficulties to a societal reluctance to hire someone his age.
All three of these New York residents are enrolled in the Hope Program, a nonprofit agency in downtown Brooklyn that has sought for the last 22 years to help people overcome obstacles to employment.
The program uses a two-stage approach. First is a full-time, 12-week phase that involves classroom training, job referrals and an unpaid internship at a company or nonprofit organization. In addition, mental health counseling and legal services are available on site for participants with problems that can make it difficult to focus on the job training. These problems may include domestic violence and entanglement in child-custody and housing disputes, said Barbara Edwards Delsman, executive director of the Hope Program.
The second stage is an unlimited period of job-retention and job-advancement services. â€œItâ€™s a lifetime follow-up program,â€ Ms. Delsman said, and the services are used each year by several hundred graduates of the initial stage. Some 2,500 people have graduated since the program began, she said.