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Home of the Sparrow hires coach to help homeless women combat unemployment, underemployment

$10,000 grant from Northwestern Medicine helps make role possible

Laurie Fulton, employment coach at Home of the Sparrow women's shelter, is helping unemployed, homeless women in McHenry County get into the workforce.
Laurie Fulton, employment coach at Home of the Sparrow women's shelter, is helping unemployed, homeless women in McHenry County get into the workforce.

An employment coach at Home of the Sparrow now is helping women in McHenry County break the cycle of underemployment and unemployment. The coach, Laurie Fulton, whose role is funded in part by a $10,000 gift from Northwestern Medicine, creates opportunities for women to train for and achieve livable wages so they can support themselves and their families.

“Women and children who become homeless are often unemployed and have no other support coming in,” said Matt Kostecki, executive director at Home of the Sparrow. “When they come to us they often have nothing but their children and the clothes on their backs.”

Home of the Sparrow is a nonprofit organization that assesses and responds to the needs of homeless women and children in the community.

Kostecki said ever since he started at the organization over a year ago, he’s noticed many women struggle to find employment. About 700 people are impacted by homelessness and unemployment/underemployment in McHenry County, Kostecki said.

“Homelessness oftentimes is not a choice, it’s a situation. To fight the homeless situation for women and children, we decided an employment coach was crucial. The coach will connect women with long-term growth opportunities so they can become self-sufficient contributing members of our community.”

As part of the new employment program, 14 of the 37 women in the shelter receive job training and are placed with employers who want to provide smooth transitions to better employment. Fulton assists with résumé writing, interviewing and job searching skills and gives women access to online training to enhance their skillsets.

As of now, four women have become employed from the program since it began in November 2019. Jobs can range from administrative, caregiver, warehouse, to health care positions, Fulton said. 

Within a month of being at the shelter after leaving a domestic abuse situation, one 36-year-old woman landed a full-time administrative position at a company. In the past, she’s only had part-time jobs which have prevented her from living on her own. The training, she said, has increased her confidence to reach her future goals of supporting herself and her child and buy a home, and get promoted at her company. 

Women also will have opportunities to intern at Home of the Sparrow retail stores and at other partner organizations to gain work experience and support their job-search efforts.

Kostecki said some women who enter Home of the Sparrow shelter or other housing programs may be employed, but they do not make livable wages to afford market rate rent.

“We have some women who will work more than one job to make ends meet,” he said. 

Kostecki said Northwestern Medicine’s gift to the program helped Home of the Sparrow secure additional funding from an anonymous donor who is funding the rest of the position.

“Home of the Sparrow’s efforts to enhance the lives of women and children align with our commitment to improving the health and wellness of our community members,” said Dawn Roznowski, director of community affairs at Northwestern Medicine. “This position will help families thrive by teaching women of all ages how to achieve jobs with higher compensation. That will decrease homelessness, reduce stress on working women and give families more quality time together.”

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