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HIRE program offers life-changing opportunities for San Diego young adults

HIRE aims to equip 16-24 year-olds with economic mobility

SAN DIEGO — For some, figuring out how to get a job or education isn't easy. Plus, if you need basic things like a place to stay, clothes or even transportation, that lack could make finding a job or getting your education seem impossible. 

That’s why the Jackie Robinson YMCA in San Diego has a program specifically designed for Black youth who are struggling not only get on their feet, but stay there.

"I was struggling with homelessness for about two years, shortly after COVID,” said Shavonte Davis, a participant in the YMCA’s HIRE Program. 

“I lost my job because I lost my childcare. So, I didn't have childcare and I didn't have housing so I didn't have clothes. My money went to a hotel room," said Davis.

Davis says this made life for her and her young daughter hard. And to make matters worse, she was grieving. "I had lost my brother and then 11 months after that, I lost my mom," said Davis.

While she was dealing with the loss of her closest relatives, Davis described what her experience without permanent housing was like. "When I was going from hotel to hotel, just having to sit outside for hours at a time. You check out at 11 and you can't check in until 3 pm and there's hours at a time where - you don't have anywhere to go," said Davis.

That’s when Davis found the YMCA and the HIRE Program, Helping Individuals Retain Employment, to help her get back on her feet. 

"You can do laundry here. You can come and they offer you childcare for about an hour or so, so you can get stuff done. They help with my rent and if my car has trouble, they help me with that. And if I need gas, they give me gas cards," said Davis.

The HIRE program is sponsored by the San Diego Workforce Partnership. They provide training in areas like apprenticeship, career readiness and financial literacy among dozens other fields to help Davis and others between the ages of 16 and 24 years-old get internships and jobs. 

Davis said, the experience and training is invaluable. "You gotta have the knowledge to know that you need to budget right, especially to be successful so you don't have to deal with homelessness again," said Davis.

The money for the program comes from the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act. These are federal dollars to designed to help make sure people not only get employed but have resources to stay employed. 

Andre Petties-Wilson grew up going to the Jackie Robinson YMCA. It impacted his life so much so that he’s now a Peer Mentor with HIRE. "You see someone who's gone through so much adversity and they're able to get the job that they dreamed of," said Petties-Wilson.  

Petties-Wilson said, for some, just a little exposure outside of one's community can make all the difference. "It kind of opens your eyes to that. Sometimes we (participants in the program) get a little community-based and we don't really leave the community but in this program, we link up with applicants and show them other parts of San Diego. 

For example, Coronado. Even though Coronado isn't far, it's like a whole different world (to most participants.) We also tell them about schools and colleges." Petties-Wilson says, when one person is lifted up, it could change their entire community. "I think it can really give people hope. And not just for that one person but for the people around them."

If you’d like more information about the Jackie Robinson YMCA and other programs and services they offer, click here.

For more information about the HIRE program or to sign up, click here.

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