Employment Dinner Recognizes TOP Achievements
Eleven years ago, Polo Seda was having a tough time. Unemployed and on the street, he took a chance on an offer of help.
“I was homeless and an outreach van came around. I decided to give it a try,” he recalled at the TOP Clubhouse, our psychosocial clubhouse for homeless and formerly homeless people. TOP helped Seda strengthen his social and job-related skills. Meanwhile, Goddard Riverside’s homeless outreach team worked with him on applying for housing.
Now, just over a decade later, Seda is living at The Senate, one of our supportive housing residences. He comes to TOP regularly for social support and to keep developing his skills. “I like to meet new people,” he says. “I do stuff I enjoy, like working at reception and answering the phone.”
Seda has just successfully completed nine months of transitional employment, doing cleaning and maintenance work. Short-term jobs like these help TOP participants gain experience and get ready for permanent positions.
“I would love to find another job,” he says. “I like it. I enjoy it. And I need the money.”
At TOP’s recent Employment Dinner, Seda received a certificate marking his successful completion of transitional employment. Several other members were also honored for their achievements in the working world. One of them was Lester Rosen, who’s been an employee at an AMC movie theater downtown for 15 years.
“I rip tickets when people come in and direct them to the appropriate theater,” Rosen explains. “And I retrieve pre-ordered tickets.”
Rosen started as a janitor at the theater and worked his way up to customer service. He says he likes meeting people on the job, and he gets along well with his manager. Meanwhile, he keeps coming to TOP three times a week. “I enjoy the atmosphere,” he explains. “I have a social life here and I like the people.”
Sadie Bryan-Johnson is the director of TOP. She says a big part of what the clubhouse does is simply to entrust its members with responsibilities.
“The people we work with are so accustomed to being disempowered,” she said. “Here, they’re a member. They have a community to contribute to. They have to make decisions.”
Working alongside staff, members order and cook meals. (For the Employment Dinner they prepared and served delicious plates of fish with rice, vegetables and salad, followed by homemade cookies with ice cream.) They plan and execute activities such as a smoking cessation group, storytelling, community meetings and field trips. They create newsletters and literary magazines. They learn computer skills and crafts.
Along the way, Bryan-Johnson said, they realize what they’re capable of.
“Our members need a place to go where they can feel safe and empowered and, most importantly, discover their talents,” she explained. “We’re proud to work with them to create that space.”