Six women once homeless gathered with staff at Women’s Empowerment for a ceremony earlier this month to celebrate their graduation from the seven-week employment-readiness and empowerment program for women experiencing homelessness in Sacramento. Most Women’s Empowerment graduation ceremonies include nearly 100 guests – family members, friends, donors, volunteers and more – but despite the lack of audience and much smaller class size, the ceremony still meant the same for each individual. Each of the women had risen from homelessness and is now in housing – half having already secured jobs, despite the pandemic raging across Sacramento County.
“For many of us, the world feels upside down with the pandemic and stay-at-home order,” said Lisa Culp, executive director, in her ceremony speech. “But when the women here today were homeless, their world felt more than upside down. They thought their world was over. Homelessness is isolating in a way no one can understand who is quarantining in a safe home. But the women of Session 79 found each other and lept over the obstacles of being homeless during a pandemic to emerge triumphant.”
Session 79 was originally scheduled to begin in April but was postponed due to the stay-at-home order. Adhering to social distancing recommendations, Women’s Empowerment accepted only a third of its usual number of participants into the session that began in late June. Each participant worked one-on-one with a master’s level social worker and employment specialist, both on staff at Women’s Empowerment. She attended a range of classes on job-readiness, financial literacy, computer skills, empowerment and more – many taught virtually by skilled volunteers from the community. She received health services and could join support groups and receive legal help, as needed. All graduates of Women’s Empowerment are eligible for its graduate services, which include paid job training programs.
Women’s Empowerment was featured on NBC’s The TODAY Show in 2015 for offering the most comprehensive job-readiness program in the Sacramento area designed specifically for women who are homeless and their children. The award-winning organization has graduated 1,687 homeless women and their 3,792 children. Last year, 70 percent of graduates found homes in the midst of the housing crisis, and 79 percent secured jobs or enrolled in school or training. The program combines self-esteem courses, job training, health classes, support services and paid job training to help homeless women across diverse ages, races and cultures. Women’s Empowerment is funded through private donations from the community and grants. To donate: Womens-Empowerment.org.