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Valley group focused on putting homeless back to work

PHOENIX — For over two decades, a privately funded non-profit has been a place where hope is born and second chances at a successful life is nearly an every-day occurrence.

“We don’t just give them hope, we give them excitement and confidence,” said Candace Sherwood of St. Joseph the Worker. “They stand a little straighter and walk a little taller.”

The organization was started in 1988 by Father Michael Baxter of Andre House of Hospitality, a shelter and soup line. According to their website, Baxter founded St. Joseph the Worker after homeless individuals receiving a free evening meal voiced their frustrations regarding the lack of basic employment resources.

Homeless, low-income and disadvantaged individuals are given a hand-up, am opportunity to become self-sufficient with the proper resources to help them achieve the goal of finding a job with a good wage and becoming, once again, a productive member of society.

“I lost my job, was laid off and ended up here,” said Chris Waddell, one of St. Joseph’s success stories.

Waddell sought help at Central Arizona Shelter Service, a homeless shelter in downtown Phoenix. It was there, where he first heard of St. Joseph the Worker and the type of assistance they provide.

The services they offer include specialized job development, job search resources — including transportation, clothing, personal hygiene products, their own voicemail and an address. Individuals can take workshops to sharpen interviewing skills, personal presentation techniques and communication and proper workplace etiquette and much more.

“I thank them every day,” said Waddell. “I don’t know where I’d be without them.”

Currently, the organization is expanding, thanks to generous support from the community. During the first four months of this fiscal year, St. Joseph the Worker has helped 919 people go back to work, an average of 230 monthly. The starting hourly wage for these individuals was $9.44 an hour, with more than half getting health benefits.

St. Joseph the Worker continues to make a huge difference one job at a time, but its success is shared.

“We can provide the hands-on direct resources, and the community says, ‘We believe in what you’re doing,’ and they help us make it possible,” said Sherwood.