AT A GLANCE
What: Jobs for Life enrollment
When: Beginning April 19, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday
Where: Sign up at Hope for the Inner City at 1800 Roanoke Ave.
Getting a job was a big deal, but it was just the beginning for Kenyell Jefferson.
He was unemployed when he enrolled in Hope for the Inner City's Jobs for Life program, held at the Sheila M. Jennings Health and Wellness Center near College Hill Courts public housing complex.
Since graduating this year, he has landed a job with Outlook Landscaping Service. By fall he plans to enroll in business management at Chattanooga State, toward a goal of opening his own hair salon and tour bus business.
But Jobs for Life has paid off in an unexpected way, too.
For the first time in more than a decade, Jefferson is able to legally visit his family at College Hill Courts.
The 34-year-old father had been on the Chattanooga Housing Authority's criminal trespass list and banned from coming on the site since 2000 as a result of a disorderly conduct charge that he said wasn't warranted.
Being on the list meant he had to sneak in and out of the apartments to visit his grandmother, aunt, cousins, the mother of his child and his 2-year-old son.
"They helped us get off the trespass list so we can get back into the community and see our family," said Jefferson.
He wasn't the only success story to come out of the first Jobs for Life graduating class.
Of the six men and two women who graduated, two got jobs and four enrolled at Chattanooga State. Three grads, including Jefferson, were removed from CHA's criminal trespass list and three are expected to be taken off the list within the next 30 days, said Vincent Boozer, Jobs for Life program director.
Only two people who participated in the class did not graduate, said Boozer.
The second Jobs for Life class is in progress in the Westside and in East Chattanooga. Sign-up for the third class starts April 19, said Boozer.
"We're going to keep plugging away," he said. "The numbers [enrolling in classes] are going to grow. People want to come in. They want a second chance and we're trying to give them that."
Jobs for Life is a 10-week jobs training class that teaches resume writing and job interview skills. The class also offers GED training and computer literacy.
Just hearing the cry from the community motivated Hope for the Inner City to offer the program in the Westside, said Boozer.
"It's a way to fight gang violence, a way to have a choice from being locked up or dying," said Boozer. "If we can save one life, we've done plenty."
More than 60 percent of residents in the Westside live in poverty and are unemployed. The median household income is less than $10,000 compared to a median household income of $45,408 for the county, according to the Chattanooga Comprehensive Gang Assessment.
Initially, participants in the Jobs for Life program at College Hill Courts who were on the criminal trespassing list were at risk of arrest every time they came to class.
But Boozer met with CHA Police Chief Felix Vess, who told the participants that if they graduated and stayed out of trouble, he would look into removing them from the list.
"I believe that last year's session of the Jobs for Life program was very successful," Vess said in an email. "I enjoyed talking to the students and participating with the students."
Boozer said Vess did what he said he would do.
"He kept his promise."
Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...