PATH: From Welfare to Work

June 9th, 2014
PATH staff (left to right): Chanelle McCurdy, case manager; Kartav Patel, Adult Learning Lab Coordinator; Kimberly Sutherland, manager; Kim Arnold, data analyst; Dandra Langford, work readiness instructor; job developer; Candice Taylor, job developer; Theresa Paruszkiewicz,, case manager; Jeff Durr, job developer

Deshonna Haynes, 22, is a single mother of one child in Detroit. Her seven-month-old son is why she cannot work as much as she would like at present, and also why she is determined to work as much as she can in the future.

“As my son grows up, I want him to look at me and always know that he has a hard-working mother who expects him to be a hard-working person, too,” Deshonna said.

To help make ends meet, Deshonna applied for cash assistance with the Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) through the Family Independence Program. Like other applicants, to receive the cash assistance, Deshonna was referred to the local PATH program. PATH stands for: Partnership. Accountability. Training. Hope.

Deshonna came to the PATH program run by Southwest Solutions in partnership with Development Centers (DC). The program started at the beginning of the year and the office is located in Redford on Plymouth Road. It serves individuals residing in the northwest Detroit area.

PATH is a results-driven work-participation program that aims to help clients attain greater self-sufficiency. It involves a 21-day assessment period in which PATH case managers help clients identify challenges to employment and then connect clients to the resources and services they need to overcome the particular challenges. These may include childcare, transportation, literacy and other work-readiness issues. Clients must complete assignments given by case managers to address the challenges.

PATH staff work with clients to prepare resumes, develop job interview skills, and find employment opportunities that will reduce or eliminate the need for public assistance. Staff also connect clients to educational, vocational, job search and job-readiness opportunities that will help them be more successful in the job market.

“PATH uses an integrated services model to help clients increase their job prospects, earning potential and, ultimately, their chances of economic self-sufficiency,” said Kimberly Sutherland, manager of the PATH program at Southwest Solutions.

To qualify for cash assistance, PATH clients must meet certain requirements that are adjusted depending on whether the household is single-parent or two-parent and whether there are young children in the household. For a single mother with a child under six, like Deshonna, she must participate an average of 20 hours a week in at least one of the designated “core activities,” which include employment, on-the-job training, job search and job readiness assistance, community service, and more.

Deshonna worked with PATH job developer Candice Taylor to secure a job at a Meijer. She now works 20 hours a week, so she can still devote time to care for her young son, and thus would qualify for continued cash assistance. However, she has made a calculated decision to decline the cash assistance at this time.

“Deshonna is definitely thinking ahead about what’s best for her future and keeping her options open,” said Candice, citing the Michigan law that restricts an individual from collecting cash assistance for more than 48 months during her or his lifetime.

Deshonna is in favor of this law. “I think it’s fair because you shouldn’t expect to get free money for as long as you want. You have to take steps to better yourself and be responsible, and that’s what PATH is really about.”

In addition to working part-time, Deshonna is taking classes at a community college. Her goal is to get a degree in culinary arts and then work in the kitchen of a distinctive restaurant.

Deshonna is one of many success stories at the Development Centers/Southwest Solutions’ PATH program. In April and May, this office, together with DC’s own PATH office, placed 107 participants into jobs, which was the most by any PATH service provider in the Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation (DESC) network – thus winning the DESC PATH Employment Awardfor both consecutive months. DESC works with DHS to oversee the PATH programs in the Detroit area.

In May, the DC/Southwest Solutions’ PATH office held a successful job fair that resulted in numerous job opportunities for PATH clients. The employers in attendance were:

  •     Anchor Staffing
  •     Little Caesars
  •     McDonald’s
  •     MeritHall Staffing
  •     Prospect Airport Services
  •     Road Dog Drivers
  •     Rock-N-Rubble Trucking

Amber Carroll, 33, came to the event. “I’d sent out 30 resumes in the last 30 days and I had no leads so far,” Amber said. “I’m used to working and I’m frustrated right now, but I have to provide for my kids and I’ll take any job that’s offered to me.”

At the job fair, Amber provided her resume to Anchor Staffing and later was hired full-time.

Like Amber, Eureka Eason, 47, has worked since she was in high school and found herself dispirited by her lengthy unemployment. Last year, Eureka lost her job at the security firm where she had worked for ten years. In her subsequent job search, much of it done at the PATH office, she sent out more than 200 resumes. However, she was unable to secure a job that provided an adequate income and coordinated with her schedule of caring for her two children, including one with special needs. When her unemployment benefits ran out, Eureka turned to pantries to put food on the table.

“Sometimes it seemed hopeless to find a job,” Eureka said. “The job market today is so tight and competitive.”

Eureka got some good leads at the job fair. But ultimately, the job she landed came from her work with PATH job developer Jeff Durr. In late May, she started part-time at Home Depot, putting her in a position to continue receiving cash assistance.

The federal government provides funds for state-run welfare programs through its Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Federal law mandates that each state program achieve a 50% work participation rate (which includes job search and job preparation activities) or risk losing part of its funding. The PATH program is designed to bring Michigan into compliance with this requirement and, eventually, attain a rate of 70%.

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