Making ends meet; New funding will help homemakers find jobs

It’s hard enough for people in the computer-savvy business world to keep up with technological advances. Imagine being out of the workforce for 10 to 15 years, and then trying to get a grasp on computer literacy. As difficult as it is, that’s the goal of the Displaced Homemakers Center in Union City, located in the Holy Rosary building on 16th Street and Bergenline Avenue. With $555,000 in funding added to the state’s 2001 fiscal year budget for the Displaced Homemakers Network of New Jersey, more women will be able to make the transition back into the working world. Union City’s center is one of 18 centers in the state. According to Marta San Martin, the program manager of the local center and the director of the Hispanic Women’s Resource Center in Union City, the network provides job training, job placement, and continuing education services to former homemakers re-entering the workforce due to such circumstances as divorce or death of their spouse. Seeking help The legislature was introduced by Assemblyman Raul “Rudy” Garcia (D-33rd Dist.) and was passed on June 1. Assemblyman Albio Sires (D-33rd Dist.) helped to support this funding increase as well. (Garcia and Sires also serve as mayor of Union City and mayor of West New York, respectively.) When Marta San Martin approached Garcia about more funding a couple of months ago, he immediately took on the cause. “It is really an easy program to sell,” said Garcia. “These women will go from not being in the workforce, to becoming a productive citizen in the workforce and at home.” According to Garcia, the network was already receiving about $900,000 in funding from the state’s Division of women. According to Robin Vogel, president of the Displaced Homemakers Network, an increase in the divorce rate has greatly increased the number of women in need of the center’s services. “The additional money will allow [the center] to continue their programs, add additional slots, and meet the needs of these women,” said Garcia. The program is also completely cost-effective. San Martin said that the total cost of returning a homemaker to the workforce is $570. The center does not know how much of that funding will be used at their site. The money will be placed with the state’s Division of Women and will then be dispersed from there. San Martin explained that the school runs along the fiscal year, beginning on July 1. The center has to present a proposal for funding each year and essentially “compete for funds.” “The need is here,” continued San Martin. “We would like to use the funding for more structured English as a Second Language classes and more computers.” Meeting needs The Union City Center is the only center that particularly caters to the Hispanic community. “In Hudson County,” said San Martin. “The number of displaced homemakers is the largest in the state, and of that number, 42 percent are Hispanic.” The center offers additional English classes to help their students. “English is the number one need,” said San Martin. “If they don’t have English skills, they are automatically put into the $5 an hour category. With English, they move into the $8 and some to the $11 an hour category.” Along with English classes, the school also provides computer literacy classes. “English and computer literacy almost go hand in hand,” said San Martin. The center also offers programs in plumbing, carpentry and to become an electrician. The center placed approximately 85 women last year. Labor of love “The people who work at the center are truly working a labor of love,” said Garcia. “They want to make sure that they are able to help.” The center not only provides job training and placement, it also provides transportation to and from job interviews and work. Special teachers like Teresa Castillo, a job search and job readiness instructor, hold classes on how to look for jobs, how to write a resume and how to perform on an interview. The women are able to come to the staff with any problems, not just with their training. Many of the women have come to on-site social worker Carmen Bizarro with questions on health issues and problems with their children. The center’s 35th Street building handles enrollment and counseling. Each student is given a working plan based on his or her goals and needs.


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