Providing a Second Chance
An organization committed to reducing poverty unemployment and homelessness in Oklahoma City is celebrating its 25th year in existence.
Since 1987, The Education and Employment Ministry has utilized social services, education and job placement to give those less fortunate a fighting chance.
On an early Monday morning, a train rolls by the brick building on Northeast 13th street just west of the Broadway Extension as potential students line up to take part in TEEM.
Sitting around a long table with six other men and women, 29-year-old Justin Brown of Clinton looks like he’s at the end of his rope and willing to try anything.
“I was in a mission shelter and they pretty much offered the program to me and I went and talked to some army recruiters and stuff like that and they told me I had to get this done before I could do anything and take any college courses before I can get in and do that, so that’s pretty much why I’m here. So, we’re doing that.”
The first thing on the agenda for anyone joining TEEM is to take the weeklong Career Development Workshop.
It serves as a catalyst for a person who has been unemployed for an extended period of time.
Felons make up 40% of the clientele at TEEM.
Kenneth Nubine graduated from the organization in the summer of 2010 and was offered a job at Tec An, a company specializing in the removal of asbestos and lead from buildings.
Nubine spent 11 years with the Navy, 14 years in the State Penitentiary on drug charges.
“I look at it, it’s my only chance. And I look at it every day like that. And, I come to work, and I come to perform, and I thank god that they seen it in me and they advanced me some.”
Nubine never missed a day of work, was never late and took it upon himself to further his education to supervisor.
Tec An officials have nothing but high praise for the work TEEM does especially in getting its clients ready for work.
President, Gary Cook, says he feels for these who have so many hoops to jump through.
“There’s a lot of places that number one won’t hire them and number two there’s a lot of places that we can’t put them on there because of what they’ve done in their past lives, so they really never get passed ‘I’ve served my time.’ they’re still serving their time.”
This turns out to be especially true of sex offenders who not only face pardon and parole, but residential restrictions.
State law forbids sex offenders from living two-thousand feet from any park, playground, school or daycare, so most end up homeless living on the streets in tents.
Probation and Parole Officer Shannon Hazen works specifically with sex offenders.
She says while there might be a few other groups working with ex-felons, TEEM is always her go to organization.
“The education and employment ministry has agreed to not only work with sex offenders which we don’t see very often, but they feed them breakfast and lunch and take note of extenuating circumstances that exist.”
Once a client graduates from the Career Development Workshop, employees like Administrative Director Michael Jackson, Senior try to get them placed in a job.
Jackson admits with current unemployment in Oklahoma sitting under five percent it’s not easy.
“It’s bad in the way that it is an employer’s market, they can pretty much be real selective on employees, but the good thing is that they’re actually providing more venues and opportunities for people to gain employment because there’s such a need for it.”
Which brings us to Friday of that week and graduation.
At the ceremony in the sanctuary at TEEM each of the eight students gets up to make a speech or read a poem or sing a song.
And, Justin surprises everyone by showing his skills at piano.
He says TEEM has given him a new outlook on life.
“I am more excited man it’s cool. It’s really cool man. I’m excited to get out there and get my feet in the water. So, yeah it’s going to turn out pretty good.”
For each of these students the training has just started as they can enroll in things like GED classes, Personal Life Management, Construction Trades, Food Safety, Job Search, Computers and Child Care.
The organization is always looking for help with donations of clothes, school supplies and personal hygiene items.
You can find out more on the web at TEEM.org