Jobs are harder to come by these days, especially for ex-cons looking for work. One Memphis program is Taking Back Our Neighborhoods by helping the jobless find a path to the working world.
Antonio Owens, a former Frayser drug dealer, now teaches other men how to stay on the straight and narrow.
"And I'm going back to my neighborhood so they can see...Yes, he did this but look what he's doing now," Owens said.
Antonio spends his days in classrooms like the one at Hope Works, a non-profit agency located in the basement of Midtown's Union Avenue Church of Christ:
"There's no guarantee that we can find a job for them but we sure try to help them," Ron Wade from Hope Works said.
Executive Director Ron Wade said Hope Works helps the jobless, whether they have a criminal conviction or not. A new program funded by the Lansky Foundation focuses specifically on bridging ex-cons to the world of work.
"They're genuine. They actually want to help you," Hope Works student Andrew Crump said.
Classroom time helps those who need it get their G.E.D.
Hope Works also focuses intensively on improving self esteem, personal responsibility, and the value of work. But not just any job. There is discernment to clarify a life's calling.
"We want someone who can research a career that they would enjoy doing," Wade said.
Hope Works pays a small stipend during student internships, so the companies that partner with Hope Works offer people like Brittany Williamson a most precious opportunity. On the job experience.
"This is the place that will get you wherever you're trying to go in life. Hope Works is the place to be. This is a good place. Good opportunity and very loving people, Spirit lifting people. This is it. This is the place," Hope Works student Brittany Williamson said.
It's not easy. But those who show up and really try may find new hope and possibly some work.
You can learn more about Hope Works by calling 901-272-3700.