Empowering Women Through Employment: Catholic Charities Employment Navigation Program Success

Across the Front Range, Catholic Charities is making a significant impact on the lives of women experiencing homelessness through our innovative Women’s Employment Navigation Program, housed at Samaritan House in downtown Denver. This program is a part of the comprehensive way that Catholic Charities looks at all our ministries, wrapping basics like safe shelter and nutritious food with case management and programming. Drew Kelley, the Associate Director of Case Management and Programming, sheds light on the program’s inception and its core objectives. 

“We received a grant called the Rapid Resolution Grant in August of 2023. Using that funding, we developed an employment navigation role meant to be housing focused. This initiative recognizes the crucial link between stable housing and income, understanding that individuals are more likely to attain permanent or transitional housing when they have a source of income.” 

Derone Armstrong, the program’s employment navigator, plays a pivotal role in assisting women in their employment journey. “The first thing I do is interview them and have them fill out a packet that will give me information about the obstacles they are facing and the career goals they need to set.” This personalized approach ensures that each participant receives tailored assistance to overcome their unique challenges and pursue their career aspirations.” 

The program works with single women who are currently living at one of three Samaritan House locations in Denver and focuses on comprehensive, covering crucial steps like resume building, accurate application completion and interview prep. Derone highlights the significance of apprenticeship programs as a pathway to a new career. “The apprenticeship programs train the individual and pay them, with 90% of them paying while they’re doing the training.” This dual benefit of earning and learning appeals greatly to the participants, offering them a chance to start fresh in a new field.” 

Each participant’s journey is unique, and Derone emphasizes the need for flexibility and adaptability in his approach. “One case is not the same as the other case. I have to be flexible and adapt to each person and how they need to be helped.”  

The program’s success is evident in the positive outcomes experienced by its participants. “I’ve placed seven women in new jobs since January, which is an enormous success,” Derone proudly shares. Most of the program’s participants are still getting accustomed to the job application process, making this success rate even more remarkable. 

To further support the participants, the program offers skill-building workshops covering resume-building, dressing for success and navigating employment websites. Derone has also developed a comprehensive guide to help individuals with limited computer skills, teaching them how to search for jobs, prepare resumes and improve interview skills. 

Derone’s dedication to the program and its participants is palpable. “The goal is to teach these women to be independent and how to accomplish goals for themselves,” he says. His ultimate goal is to secure sustainable careers for the women, not just temporary jobs. “I want to help them establish a career, not just find a job.” 

The impact of the program extends beyond just employment. It instills a sense of hope, confidence and self-reliance in the participants. “There’s a young lady that was so excited. She cried when she got the job and that just made me feel like—yes,” Derone shared. Seeing the participants succeed and transform their lives is what drives him in the role of Employment Navigator. “I get emotional because I love what I do, and I feel like this is my calling.”  “I honestly believe that God put me here for a reason, and I’m not gonna let Him down. I hold myself accountable to them and to God.” 

The Catholic Charities Employment Navigation Program is more than just a career counseling program. It is a lifeline for women experiencing homelessness, offering them support, guidance and opportunities to rebuild their lives and achieve long-term stability. With our team’s unwavering commitment and the program’s holistic approach, it is paving the way for a brighter and more hopeful future for women, one job at a time.