With a lengthy criminal background, Jesse Nielsen’s job search seemed hopeless.
Recently released on parole, and desperately trying to find a way to provide for his family, the 35-year-old sought help from Chrysalis, a nonprofit that helps poor and homeless individuals attain jobs.
Nielsen rode the bus nearly two hours every day to the organization’s new Anaheim office, where he learned how to fill out his first résumé. Nielsen was offered a job at the United Parcel Service a few weeks ago.
“I figured I had no future, then I learned that I did,” Nielsen said.
The office is the nonprofit’s first in Orange County. There are three others in Los Angeles County.
Mark Loranger, Chrysalis’ president and chief executive officer, said the organization chose Orange County for its newest location in 17 years because it has a deficit of service providers despite a spiraling homelessness crisis.
An office in downtown Anaheim next to City Hall seemed like an appropriate location.
With job preparation classes, counseling and other assistance, Chrysalis seeks to remove barriers preventing the poor and homeless from landing jobs.
During a recent class, a few clients were guided through a workbook that taught how to craft a cover letter, email do’s and don’ts and how to respond to common interview questions.
For clients who lack access to the necessary technologies of the modern workforce, the organization has a dozen computers with internet access and provides access to phones. There’s also a room with work attire for clients who can’t afford their own.
Chrysalis also has a transitional jobs program, where clients work until they find a permanent position. The nonprofit partners with the California Department of Transportation to provide transitional roles in litter abatement and landscaping.
“A lot of our clients haven’t worked in forever,” Loranger said. “This teaches them the ins and outs, like waking up at 7 a.m. every day.”
The average client, generally middle-aged, stays for four to six weeks, but there is no clock on anyone. Between 60 to 70% of clients find work. Most go into the construction, hospitality or logistics industries.
It’s a tradition at Chrysalis for clients to ring a golden bell when they get hired. Nielsen rang his a few weeks ago, but Loranger said the bell is still too shiny and pristine.
“We need some more scuffs on this one,” he said.
Where other organizations may shy away from working with people with troubled backgrounds like Nielsen, Chrysalis seeks them out.
“We want the people with the biggest challenges,” Loranger said. “We judge on what you can be, not what you have been.”
Nielsen said he received nothing but support from the nonprofit.
“Our job is also to change perceptions,” Loranger said. “Our clients can be some of the hardest-working employees in the community, yet so many write them off.”
Chrysalis’ office hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 8 a.m. to noon Friday at 290 South Anaheim Blvd. For more information, visit changelives.org.