Opportunity Chicago Connecting CHA Residents with Jobs - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Opportunity Chicago Connecting CHA Residents with Jobs

Sherissa Cross is one of thousands of Chicago Housing Authority residents who have found good jobs through Opportunity Chicago.

When Sherissa Cross moved to the new mixed-income housing community Oakwood Shores with her grandmother in 2005, she didn’t realize that her new home would also lead to a new job opportunity.

Cross previously had lived in the Madden Wells public housing complex, which was among the troubled sites targeted for redevelopment through the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) Plan for Transformation. As part of her decision to move into Oakwood Shores , she knew she would need to abide by the CHA requirement that all adult, able-bodied, non-senior residents living in public housing work 30 hours per week.

Yet, Cross wasn’t sure how to find a job that suited her interests and skills. Fortunately, not long after her move, she received a flyer from The Community Builders (TCB) – Oakwood Shores ’ developers – outlining a host of ways they could assist her in her job search. Cross worked one-on-one with TCB’s Andy Michails to identify her interest in retail and sales and find a matching employment opportunity: a seasonal position with Macy’s merchandising department. Michails didn’t stop there. He helped Cross prepare for the interview process and even accompanied her to Macy’s on the day of the interview to ease her nerves.

Cross got the job, and was such an asset to Macy’s that the company hired her again the following holiday season.

The Community Builders and Macy’s are both partners in Opportunity Chicago , a workforce development effort led by the Partnership for New Communities that in the past five years has helped 5,000 public housing residents prepare for work, find a job, and remain employed. As of June 2008, the Partnership’s $5 million investment in Opportunity Chicago has leveraged $18 million in public funding from CHA, the State of Illinois, and the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development.

At a recent MPC Building Successful Mixed-Income Communities Forum , Cross said the assistance she received from Michails was invaluable in helping her find a good job she enjoys. She encouraged fellow public housing residents to "get behind their fears" and take advantage of programs like Opportunity Chicago to become more self-reliant.

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