By José A. Álvarez
“Better jobs, better health.” This is the principle behind the California Works for Better Health (CWBH) project, established in 2000 and which aims to improve people’s health by helping them secure better jobs.
As part of the project, funded through the California Endowment and the Rockefeller Foundation, four community-based collaboratives were established in four major cities of CaliforniaFresno, Sacramento, Los Angeles, and San Diego.
The goal of these collaboratives is to improve health in high poverty neighborhoods by improving access to local job opportunities.
In San Diego, the task of helping people secure better jobs fell on the hands of the MAAC (Metropolitan Area Advisory Committee) Project, a multi-purpose social service agency which has been serving various communities throughout San Diego County.
To accomplish that goal, the MAAC Project established an Employment Resource Center, 1102 César Chávez Parkway, in Barrio Logan. One of the most successful social service agencies in the County, MAAC has continuously assisted low-income clients in achieving a higher level of self-sufficiency.
“The Center provides ready-built networks for people looking for employment or who are underemployed,” said Juan Molina, the Center’s program manager.
Established in September 2004, the Center not only provides access to all job announcements in San Diego County, but also assesses the work readiness of potential employees, offers them resume development, helps people improve their interviewing skills, and guides them through their job search.
“We are not your traditional career center,” explained Medina, adding that this type of resource was needed in this community because the existing career centers throughout the County are not serving the specific needs of the people using the Center’s services. “Many people were not being served. Some have limited English-speaking abilities. Others are completely monolingual. And others have low skills and low education levels.”
Since the Center began operations, approximately 1,300 people have received some type of service. Currently, the Center and its five employees carry a caseload of 214 and have placed 115 in various positions earning an average of $10.09 per hour.
Recently, the Center conducted an open house to make itself better known in the community and help spread the word about the services they offer. In addition to the services the Center provides, it also works with a large group of organizations that have agreed to take referrals, provide transportation, and child care, among other services.
“Most of our people are intimidated. We try to break those barriers that could prevent people from gaining employment,” said Medina.
MAAC’s Employment Resource Center is part of CWBH’s five-year research project, which is in its final year. However, Medina assured the Center will continue serving clients and is currently exploring other forms of sustainability.
“We have several options going,” assured Median. “We’re confident that we will keep going.”
For additional information on the Center and the services it provides, call (619) 255-7284.
Established in 1965, MAAC Project serves as a catalyst to help individuals and families become self-sufficient. With an annual budget of about $20 million and more than 300 employees, MAAC currently serves approximately 35,000 individuals per year and in the last 39 years has provided services to about 1,000,000 clients.
MAAC provides a spectrum of programs, including HeadStart/FirstStart, nutritional programs, low-income home weatherization and improvement, two substance abuse recovery homes, affordable housing complexes and a charter school.