Finding a new job can be tough even in the best of circumstances, but for those who have lost everything, it can feel close to impossible.
That's why the , a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization in Decatur, Georgia, decided to launch the , which helps homeless individuals and their families "weave" a better life.
Re:loom is a job training program that helps adults who have struggled to stay employed. The program, which hired its first weavers during the recession in 2010, offers full-time paid positions to its employees, who are tasked with creating handmade woven items. Employees are taught how to weave products on old-fashioned floor looms, and then their handmade wares are sold at craft fairs, , and through .
In addition to learning how to weave beautiful products, re:loom provides its employees with the marketable job skills they'll need when they eventually move on to other career paths.
"It's really about getting them 'employment ready'… [it's] for those who have no work experience or job skills," said Lisa Wise, the executive director of the Initiative for Affordable Housing. "They get a lot of one-on-one practice learning a skill and creating something everyday."
The program takes donations of clothing and other fabrics from the community. Then, all of those materials are cut up into strips by the weavers and IAH volunteers so that they can be made into beautiful handmade area rugs, table runners, purses and other products.
It can take about five to six , not including the sewing and fringe to finish it off. A product like this costs around $199, which can help fund up to one week of shelter for a homeless family. One-hundred percent of the profits that re:loom makes go to the employees' salaries and benefits like health coverage, dental, eye care, and paid time off.
Wise said the program has helped about 23 women and a few men so far. Some individuals who had certified nursing assistance experience went back and got their certifications after working at re:loom, while a few others found child development positions, warehouse jobs, and more.
"Our goal is to get them stabilized so they're work ready for another environment," said Wise.