Free Voice Mail helps homeless job-seekers in 8 CA counties [Bay

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sun, 1 Nov 1998 02:54:20 -0400


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http://www.mercurycenter.com:80/premium/local/docs/voicemail30.htm
=46WD  San Jose Mercury News - Friday, October 30, 1998


VOICE MAIL PLUGS HOMELESS INTO JOBS

Corporate donors and volunteers create
voice mail program to aid job searches

By Deborah Kong - Mercury News Staff Writer


In an area where many are jabbering into cellular phones or chatting on
second telephone lines, being well-connected is taken for granted. But for
the formerly homeless David Housel, just checking messages on a voice mail
box was a luxury.

Shuttling between shelters, Housel used the voice mail to retrieve messages
from a Cupertino management company while searching for an apartment. It
worked. In June, the Salvation Army Thrift Store manager moved into a
three-bedroom apartment that he shares with two other men.

Housel is one of the success stories of the new Bay Area-wide Community
VoiceMail program that offers voice mail to homeless people in eight
counties. More than 1,000 voice mail boxes assigned to homeless people are
the result of a partnership between corporate donors, the non-profit Bay
Area Homeless Alliance and local volunteers of the Baha'i Faith.

Caseworkers in dozens of Bay Area social service agencies dispense the
seven-digit voice mail numbers where family, potential employers,
landlords, schools and doctors can leave messages for homeless people to
retrieve.

Clients, who record their own outgoing messages, can use the voice mail for
up to three months. Workers track when and how many calls come in. In Santa
Clara County, where about 180 voice mail boxes are in use, the devices
played a key role in securing a job or housing for 60 percent of the people
who use them, Alliance officials said.

A godsend

Housel, 61, who came to California from upstate New York with $900 in his
pocket to escape memories of his wife's recent death, said the voice mail
was a godsend. He slept in shelters and sent out 40 r=E9sum=E9s over four
months, using the voice mail to check messages from prospective employers.

``It gives you a sense of independence and a sense of security,'' said the
silver-haired Housel, dressed in a gray suit. ``At that point it was the
only way I had to contact the outside world. It's very hard to explain to
somebody who's never been homeless -- you're kind of a nothing.''

Housel, who had worked in department stores as a salesman and manager since
he was 15, sent an application to a Santa Clara restaurant. A week later,
they called his voice mail to offer him a job as cook, dishwasher and
busboy.

A regular customer there told him about a job at the Salvation Army Thrift
Store in Sunnyvale, where he worked as a janitor, handyman and sales clerk.
Earlier this month, he was promoted to manager of a boutique at the
Salvation Army's downtown San Jose store.

The voice mail system that many clients use was donated by Milpitas-based
Lucent Technologies Octel Messaging Division. Octel, a messaging systems
provider, gave the Alliance two of its PC-based messaging servers, software
and assistance from customer service representatives who helped set it up
-- a package worth about $40,000 to $50,000.

San Francisco County, where WorldCom Inc. donated the system, and Santa
Clara County, have been using the voice mail system for a few years. But
San Mateo and Sonoma began only two weeks ago and Solano is expected to
begin shortly. Alameda, Marin, Napa and Contra Costa have started in the
last six months. Sherman Oaks-based Apex Voice Communications Inc. donated
the systems for those seven counties.

In those seven counties, teams of Baha'i volunteers set up and manage the
central voice mail systems in their own homes.

Counties pay

Each county is responsible for the cost of renting telephone lines for the
voice mail system, about $1,200 per year.

The voice mail system is one component of the Alliance's federally funded
project. ``We saw the potential of being in the heart of Silicon Valley to
use technology in a way that would help the non-profit sector,'' said Ray
Allen, executive director of the Community Technology Alliance, the lead
agency.

The second part of the project includes building an
information-and-referral database on the Internet that gives service
providers and clients updated news on housing, employment, benefits and
other services. The Alliance also gave 54 Bay Area agencies new computer
systems with modems and Internet connections. The networking system was
donated by 3Com.

In East Palo Alto, Bayshore Community Resource Center program coordinator
Harriet Swearington said she is looking forward to getting the voice mail
service because it would help her clients become self-sufficient.

Irma Anderson, a program manager at Cupertino Community Services said the
voice mail has been a lifeline for her clients.

``People who can't communicate to the outside world are invisible,'' she
said ``It gives them the sense of being part of society again. . . . It
makes shelters agents of change.''

The voice mail she assigned recovering drug abuser Jim Hurley, 41, helped
him in his job search. ``When you're homeless, where do you plug your phone
in? When you go for a job, you don't want them to know you're homeless
because they frown on it,'' said the jovial, tattooed Hurley, who has been
clean and sober for nine months.

He began work a month ago at the San Jose Family Shelter, where he cooks
lunch and dinner for several dozen children and adults.

``I was homeless and I have been to soup kitchens and been to places to
eat,'' said Hurley as he prepared an after-school snack of fruit and
cottage cheese for children returning to the shelter. ``That's why I try to
do my best here with the food.'
HOMELESS PEOPLE'S NETWORK  <http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/>  Home Page
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=46WD  San Jose Mercury News - Friday, October 30, 1998=20



<paraindent><param>right,left</param>VOICE MAIL PLUGS HOMELESS INTO
JOBS


Corporate donors and volunteers create

voice mail program to aid job searches


By Deborah Kong - Mercury News Staff Writer=20

</paraindent>


In an area where many are jabbering into cellular phones or chatting on
second telephone lines, being well-connected is taken for granted. But
for the formerly homeless David Housel, just checking messages on a
voice mail box was a luxury.


Shuttling between shelters, Housel used the voice mail to retrieve
messages from a Cupertino management company while searching for an
apartment. It worked. In June, the Salvation Army Thrift Store manager
moved into a three-bedroom apartment that he shares with two other
men.


Housel is one of the success stories of the new Bay Area-wide Community
VoiceMail program that offers voice mail to homeless people in eight
counties. More than 1,000 voice mail boxes assigned to homeless people
are the result of a partnership between corporate donors, the
non-profit Bay Area Homeless Alliance and local volunteers of the
Baha'i Faith.


Caseworkers in dozens of Bay Area social service agencies dispense the
seven-digit voice mail numbers where family, potential employers,
landlords, schools and doctors can leave messages for homeless people
to retrieve.


Clients, who record their own outgoing messages, can use the voice mail
for up to three months. Workers track when and how many calls come in.
In Santa Clara County, where about 180 voice mail boxes are in use, the
devices played a key role in securing a job or housing for 60 percent
of the people who use them, Alliance officials said.


A godsend


Housel, 61, who came to California from upstate New York with $900 in
his pocket to escape memories of his wife's recent death, said the
voice mail was a godsend. He slept in shelters and sent out 40 r=E9sum=E9s
over four months, using the voice mail to check messages from
prospective employers.


``It gives you a sense of independence and a sense of security,'' said
the silver-haired Housel, dressed in a gray suit. ``At that point it
was the only way I had to contact the outside world. It's very hard to
explain to somebody who's never been homeless -- you're kind of a
nothing.''


Housel, who had worked in department stores as a salesman and manager
since he was 15, sent an application to a Santa Clara restaurant. A
week later, they called his voice mail to offer him a job as cook,
dishwasher and busboy.


A regular customer there told him about a job at the Salvation Army
Thrift Store in Sunnyvale, where he worked as a janitor, handyman and
sales clerk. Earlier this month, he was promoted to manager of a
boutique at the Salvation Army's downtown San Jose store.


The voice mail system that many clients use was donated by
Milpitas-based Lucent Technologies Octel Messaging Division. Octel, a
messaging systems provider, gave the Alliance two of its PC-based
messaging servers, software and assistance from customer service
representatives who helped set it up -- a package worth about $40,000
to $50,000.


San Francisco County, where WorldCom Inc. donated the system, and Santa
Clara County, have been using the voice mail system for a few years.
But San Mateo and Sonoma began only two weeks ago and Solano is
expected to begin shortly. Alameda, Marin, Napa and Contra Costa have
started in the last six months. Sherman Oaks-based Apex Voice
Communications Inc. donated the systems for those seven counties.


In those seven counties, teams of Baha'i volunteers set up and manage
the central voice mail systems in their own homes.=20


Counties pay


Each county is responsible for the cost of renting telephone lines for
the voice mail system, about $1,200 per year.


The voice mail system is one component of the Alliance's federally
funded project. ``We saw the potential of being in the heart of Silicon
Valley to use technology in a way that would help the non-profit
sector,'' said Ray Allen, executive director of the Community
Technology Alliance, the lead agency.


The second part of the project includes building an
information-and-referral database on the Internet that gives service
providers and clients updated news on housing, employment, benefits and
other services. The Alliance also gave 54 Bay Area agencies new
computer systems with modems and Internet connections. The networking
system was donated by 3Com.


In East Palo Alto, Bayshore Community Resource Center program
coordinator Harriet Swearington said she is looking forward to getting
the voice mail service because it would help her clients become
self-sufficient.


Irma Anderson, a program manager at Cupertino Community Services said
the voice mail has been a lifeline for her clients.


``People who can't communicate to the outside world are invisible,''
she said ``It gives them the sense of being part of society again. . .
=2E. It makes shelters agents of change.''


The voice mail she assigned recovering drug abuser Jim Hurley, 41,
helped him in his job search. ``When you're homeless, where do you plug
your phone in? When you go for a job, you don't want them to know
you're homeless because they frown on it,'' said the jovial, tattooed
Hurley, who has been clean and sober for nine months.


He began work a month ago at the San Jose Family Shelter, where he
cooks lunch and dinner for several dozen children and adults.


``I was homeless and I have been to soup kitchens and been to places to
eat,'' said Hurley as he prepared an after-school snack of fruit and
cottage cheese for children returning to the shelter. ``That's why I
try to do my best here with the food.'

HOMELESS PEOPLE'S NETWORK  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/>  Home Page

ARCHIVES  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/archives.html>  read posts to HPN

TO JOIN  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/join.html> or email Tom <<wgcp@earthlink=
=2Enet>

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