Siloam Mission runs program to offer work experience

Selena Templeman is happy she gets to clean up outside Siloam Mission. She said it always gives her something to look forward to in the morning. THE PROJECTOR/ Samantha Squire

Selena Templeman is happy she gets to clean up outside Siloam Mission. She said it always gives her something to look forward to in the morning. THE PROJECTOR/ Samantha Squire

Michael Hadley said his incomplete smile degrades his self-esteem and that’s what keeps him from getting a job.

“It hurts the most when they crack at the gum line,” said Hadley.

The 59-year-old said he has cracked tooth syndrome, meaning he’s lost teeth due to tiny fractures. Because he can’t get a job, Hadley said he’s now homeless.

But thanks to Siloam Mission’s program Mission: Off the Streets (MOST), Hadley has been able to take some steps in a positive direction.

MOST hires homeless people to collect garbage and sweep in the summer, then shovel snow in the winter. The program has been ongoing for seven years.

The program has expanded over the past two years, and is now offered five days a week instead of three. Tuesday through Thursday, there are now morning shifts and afternoon shifts.

“Even with the extra shifts, the program still fills up everyday,” said program organizer Cathy Ste. Marie.

Ste. Marie these employees defy the stereotypes some people might have of homeless people. She said there’s more to their stories than one might think.

“They are hard working people,” said Ste. Marie. “Some of them had jobs for over 20 years, and the company they worked for went bankrupt one day.”

In those situations, people couldn’t afford their next mortgage payment and lost their homes, Ste. Marie said. Programs such as MOST help homeless people regain what was lost, and help build sustainable futures.

Ste. Marie said the people who work hard and show up everyday will be funneled through to the Building Futures Program, a system that helps people create a foundation to sustain a job. The next step is finding a career.

Former security officer Selena Templeman, 43, said the program has kept her off welfare. She said getting up for work in the morning gives her something to look forward to.

“I’ve met some of my best friends in the program, and that’s even better than the money,” said Templeman.

She said her favourite part of cleaning the streets is the treasures she finds.

“One time I found a stuffed dog,” said Templeman. “I still have him. His name is Joey.”

She is keeping Joey for herself, but the money Templeman earns is being saved for her two children.

MOST was the stepping-stone Templeman said she needed to get back into the workforce. She is waiting on paperwork to take a course for her security guard license necessary for her to get back into the field, she said, and can’t wait to start working full-time again.

Hadley is starting to reach his goals, too. After working for MOST for nine months, he said he’s saving up for dentures so he can finally replace his cracked teeth. But first, he had to invest in some other technology.

“I was able to buy a ten-inch electronic tablet and use it to set up my online banking,” he said.