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“PBS NewsHour Weekend” Feature — Our House

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  • Shirley Bowen
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Our House is a residential facility in Little Rock that provides services to homeless and near-homeless individuals and families. From its incorporation in 1987, it has grown into a multi-building campus that touches the lives of about 1,800 people each year. A central mission of Our House is to "provide hope for the working homeless," and the organization recently expanded the scope of its services with a new Career Center, which opened on May 26 after a $1 million renovation.

At 7,000 square feet, the Career Center is an attractive, spacious building that can host as many as 120 people at a time to participate in job training and career education. In addition to more classroom space, the center features a new teaching kitchen for career and life-skills training.

Our House Kitchen Facilities

People from around the state come to the facility seeking help. "Whether those adults are parents, whether they're single people, whether they're folks from other shelters or from the homeless prevention program, they can come here to the Our House Career Center," according to Our House Executive Director Georgia Mjartan. "They can get the job skills they need to get a job, to maintain that job, to get raises in that job. They can get cooking skills. They can get certifications that employers recognize. They can work toward their high school diploma."

Our House Client Patrick Tufford

"The job training program is supposed to help people who might otherwise have trouble getting a job," said Our House client Pat Tufford. "At the end of six months, which is how long the program normally lasts, you get a certificate of completion that you can add to your resume. They teach you how to interact with other people and network to build up your resources to get another job, to get a better job."

There are daunting challenges that people who are moving out of poverty have to face, and the staff at Our House helps people navigate what are often complex life situations.

"They have re-entry programs for people who are getting out of prison. They help members in the community with clothing and daycare and school and all kinds of things," said Tufford. "It's a good place to re-evaluate your life and get started again, especially if you've been down and out. It does a lot of good for a lot of people. People who are out right now, who think that there is nothing for them, can come here and find a purpose and a reason to start over again. You've got to let go of the past and move on to the future, and that's one of the things they teach you how to do here."

Our House Job Fair

Getting job and life skills training is an important part of what Our House offers to clients, as well as connections with potential employers. "One of the benefits of being here in Little Rock is that there are so many employers, and many of those are amazing about hiring our clients," said Mjartan. "They reach out to us. They say, ‘Do you have anyone good for this particular role?' and so often, because we serve 1,800 people a year, we say, ‘yes.'"

In 2015, the Our House Career Center connected 499 people with full-time employment with 288 Central Arkansas employers.

LEARN MORE:

ourhouseshelter.org

TUNE IN:

"PBS NewsHour Weekend," Saturdays and Sundays at 5:30 p.m.