Abuse, medical debt, and poverty were things Calvin had become accustomed to after a workplace injury left him with an unpaid worker’s compensation claim and an expensive surgery bill. This put a strain on his marriage and Calvin’s wife began making him feel small, saying he “couldn’t even afford to pay a water bill without her.” This lit a fire inside Calvin that burned brighter than the fire around him, so he moved to the best place to rise from the ashes: Phoenix.

Calvin’s new life in Phoenix began at a shelter where he quickly got a bed and a part-time job. But Calvin wanted more. He wanted his own “house” and a job that could provide a living wage and benefits. Without local connections to help him find quality employment, and with no money to afford clothing and transportation for job interviews, Calvin turned to St. Joseph the Worker. After providing him with job leads, clothing, a bus pass, and some coaching, he landed a full-time position at Café of the Valley for $13.25 an hour with benefits!

Employment Specialist, Sue Medina, saw something special in Calvin and decided to evaluate him for our pilot transitional housing program, Employment Bridge. Centered around having employment, learning healthy budgeting techniques, improving credit, and eventually moving into independent housing, the Employment Bridge Program would allow Calvin to drastically improve his life. Calvin met all program pre-qualifications and he agreed to follow program rules; but at the last minute, he said, “no thank you.” He felt that he was sure to fail, that he did not deserve the opportunity, that it would be better just to settle and let someone else have this chance. Using her exceptional skills in motivational coaching, confidence-building, and career exploration, Sue convinced Calvin to say “yes.” He entered the program in August 2020.

Two months after starting the Employment Bridge Program, Calvin was offered a better paying job with more benefits at Pave Stone, making $15 an hour with full benefits. Though Sue was helping Calvin maintain his budget and track his savings goals, Calvin decided not to tell Sue about the extra money he was making. Instead, Calvin opened his own separate savings account and began depositing money into it himself. He did not do this out of deceit, but rather to prove to himself that he could apply the lessons Sue had been teaching him without Sue supervising him. In December 2020, Calvin stopped by the office to reveal what he had been hiding from Sue for the previous two months: that he had a new job, had saved $8,000 – $6,000 with Sue and $2,000 on his own – and was approved to move into his own apartment!

Calvin is a proven Employment Bridge success story, having received a valuable education and learned important life skills on the importance of being a solid and reliable employee, and how to become self-sufficient and fiscally responsible. SJW will continue to follow Calvin for a full twelve months, as we do with all Employment Bridge participants, to offer continued support and to support Calvin’s long-term success in any way we can.

Calvin attributes his success to his ability to leverage his trauma to avoid making the same mistakes again: “I learned the importance of saving because after I was injured, my ex-wife said I couldn’t afford to pay the water bill without her help… I wanted to prove to myself that I could be independent. I just needed to find someone who believes in me and supports me… that person was Sue.” Though he knew how important fiscal responsibility was before coming to St. Joseph the Worker, he thanks Sue for “reinforcing the importance of fiscal responsibility” and helping him “find a path to independence.”

Part of the Employment Bridge is helping clients to see past the immediate time frame and “just surviving,” to create long term goals for themselves and their lives. Five years from now, Calvin wants to buy a home and run a business that will allow him to help others like St. Joseph the Worker has. We look forward to it!