Creating a Path to Employment and Shelter

October 12, 2020 Brad Perkins

The train ride between Chicago and South Bend, Ind., takes about three hours. But for two men looking for housing and work, the journey was life-changing thanks to a Staff Management | SMX account manager and her connections and generosity.

They came from Chicago where they had separately lost their houses and met at a homeless shelter, which told them they should check out the shelter in South Bend. But once there, they learned that COVID-19 had closed the shelter. Unsure of what do, they sought shelter underneath a viaduct, where representatives from Goodwill found them and began the process of helping, starting with a phone call to Staff Management | SMX account manager Barbara Hilt.

As account manager for a local manufacturing client, Hilt has a strong connection with Goodwill, where she hosts hiring events and helps people get items like clothing, shoes and transportation that can help them keep jobs.

“The manager brought them to me and we spent the whole day together, talking about how they got in that situation, how they ended up in South Bend,” Hilt said.

Hilt arranged for interviews for jobs at a local manufacturer putting parts on the lines for the machine operators. She subsequently hired them for those jobs and Goodwill helped with transportation and clothes.

“Goodwill supplied them with backpacks and gave them $10 toward clothes and could give them 10% off, and I happened to be there, so I paid the difference so they could buy clothes to wear to work,” Hilt said. “One had also had his shoes stolen, so I bought them steel toed shoes.”

Hilt also gave the men an old cell phone so they could check in with her. And on the first weekend she had a surprise for them – she was going to bring them to her house across the border in Michigan where they could relax, play with her dogs and eat homecooked meals.

“They got to fuss around in the garden and do normal things,” she said. “I cooked extra every night so they had something to eat during the week and I drove them to work on Sunday.”

For the first couple weeks, they spent the weekends at her house and the weekdays working and looking for places to stay. After three weeks, they found rooms to rent – but still return to Hilt’s house on the weekends.

“They like coming out here,” she said. “One day, they spent the day organizing the barn. They come out, they fuss around in the garden with us and on Sundays we make sure they relax, get naps and I pack the up meals.”

Giving the men opportunity and stability helped them show that they’re dependable and motivated, which, in turn, gives them opportunities to get trained on more skilled jobs.

But the giving back doesn’t stop there. One of the men found a room to rent from two wheelchair-bound people so he can help them, too. The other found a room to rent in a different house. Both are still employed at the manufacturer.

And if you ask people around Staff Management | SMX and South Bend, it’s no surprise.

“Barb is a tremendously selfless person who always jumps at an opportunity to help people,” said Staff Management | SMX Director of Operations Erin DeWeese. “She is always willing to help out people in need, whether it’s help with clothes or transportation or just to talk about job or life issues. She’s usually the first person people ask for when our client needs jobs filled or people want to know about open roles.”

And that’s intentional. She has always sought to make sure that the people she hires are able to contact her and build a relationship with her. And that’s what’s kept her going in staffing.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve helped people in one way or another,” Hilt said. “I’m always focused on getting to know people. That way, if you have somebody that’s really good and they start showing up late one day, you can find out what’s wrong. Then they talk to other people and tell you how wonderful the company is and they start referring friends.”

About the Author

Writer. Photographer. Runner. World traveler. Sports fan. Proud left-hander.

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