From Homeless to $22 an hour

From Homeless to $22 an hour

John Robinson didn’t think Newark city officials were serious about a construction trades program for residents like him living in a homeless shelter.

The facility on Sussex Avenue had been slated to be closed in March after it was open through the winter months to house those in need.

So, it only made sense for Robinson to be skeptical of the job offer in June to learn a trade that would teach him to repair housing authority apartments.

“But when they (city officials) started taking names, that’s when we knew it was real,” said Robinson, 39, a married father of three children.

Robinson jumped at the chance, even though the shelter closed for a day in July when the city didn’t have any more funds. Corporate donors paid the $200,000 cost to keep it open for that month. The shelter, however, is still open as the city continues to work on a plan to house the homeless population.

Residents living there are relieved for now that they have somewhere to go. Fifteen of them were selected to be interviewed and screened for the construction trade program offered by the Newark Housing Authority and Laborers Local 55, a residential construction labor union in Newark. About half of those who applied to the program were accepted.

The housing agency and the union had already been training and hiring Newark residents for the past year, but it extended the program to include those who were homeless when the shelter issue surfaced…

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