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RV converted to Mobile Success Unit helps connect people with jobs

November 5, 2014
Cronkite News
Anastasia Reynolds

PHOENIX – Robert Batke came to The Crossroads Facilities, a recovery housing program, hoping to overcome substance abuse. Next he needs to find a job, something that’s been difficult for him since moving from Alaska in April.

His help with the latter arrives each Monday in the form of a 36-foot RV dubbed the Mobile Success Unit. It’s operated by St. Joseph the Worker, an organization that helps low-income and homeless individuals find employment.

On this Monday, Batke cautiously walked up the three steps and through the RV door to find Bob Smith, a greeter who shook his hand and instructed him to fill out paperwork for job help. Then he met Daren Strunk, an employment outreach specialist, who combs through resumes to connect people with available positions.

“I think it’s better than going through the want ads in the newspaper. There’s a lot more resources available,” Batke said. “These people have the expertise to lead you in the right direction.”

Strunk also helped update his resume, noting that Batke spent 30 years in a state government job in Alaska and explaining how the job market has changed in that time.

“Nowadays employers have filter methods,” Batke said afterward. “Employers are looking for keywords and they do that via computer. You want to nail those key words and have a good resume because that makes all the difference in finding a job.”

Candace Sherwood, director of development for St. Joseph the Worker, said the Mobile Success Unit is Arizona’s first-ever mobile job development office and provides the necessary tools for people to get back on their feet and land a job.

“Things happen and your world goes upside down, and now you’re job searching when you haven’t needed to write a resume in 15 years,” Sherwood said.

In renovating the RV for its debut in April, the group added a closet full of hygiene products, a computer lab, a job developer area and a bigger closet to hold clothing for job interviews. The back room, formerly a bedroom, is now filled with men’s and women’s dress clothing that is given to people for interviews and jobs. The main room used to be a kitchen and lounge area but now contains a computer lab and printer and is equipped with Wi-Fi.

The Mobile Success Unit travels Monday through Thursday to at least seven locations with the greeter/driver, a job developer and a director from St. Joseph the Worker. Those three visit with hundreds of people a month to help them find jobs and get back on their feet.

According to Sherwood, most people who enter the Mobile Success Unit have the ability to work the next day but are lacking specific tools, like nice clothes and hygiene products.

“We can give you everything you need to go get your own job,” Sherwood said. “We don’t do it for you. We are not job placement, but we ask what do you need to be able to go out there and be successful.”

Smith, the driver and greeter, said he tries to interact with the people as much as possible because sometimes they are nervous because they haven’t had a job in so long.

“We are able to take the services that St. Joseph the Worker has historically offered for 25 years and bring them to the community,” he said. “That’s an exciting proposition because I get to participate in changing people’s lives. This is about helping people.”