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3 min read

The Business Practicum: Getting People Back to Work

Gospel. Change. Jobs. These are our three distinctives.

While the Inland Northwest is home to multiple organizations committed to serving people experiencing homelessness, UGM has three characteristics that distinguish us from other charities and government entities: 1) We are boldly Christ-centered; the hope we are offering is the hope of the gospel. 2) We are here for people who are ready to change their lives; and 3) we believe everyone has a valuable contribution to make to the world.

In other words, UGM seeks to help people experiencing homelessness find the healing they need to return to society as God-dependent, contributing members. Part of this process is discovering career interests and developing job skills.

JoleneIn 2009, UGM implemented the business practicum experience as part of its long-term recovery program. Since that time, 359 men and women have completed a business practicum—a 240-hour internship—with one of 196 different businesses in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene. More than 90 percent of those individuals have gone on to permanent employment, either with the business where they did their practicum or another business.

Executive Director Phil Altmeyer described how the business practicum fits into UGM’s purpose: “We want people to recognize that they were created for meaning and purpose, that they have a valuable contribution to make to the world… If we’re going to end homelessness, we need to get people back to work.”

“We want people to recognize that they were created for meaning and purpose, that they have a valuable contribution to make to the world… If we’re going to end homelessness, we need to get people back to work.” Phil Altmeyer (click to tweet)

Over the years, five men have done their business practicum with the City of Spokane—three in the water department, one in development and planning, and one in the streets department—and three of them have been hired. Justin Meisner is currently doing his business practicum with the streets department and recently spoke with City Cable News 5’s Jeff Humphrey: “I’m getting a lot of hands-on experience, working with the team. Just building new work skills…doing stuff I never even considered doing in the past.”

JustinTwo years ago, Justin was what some might have considered “a hopeless addict.” Before coming to UGM, he remembers waking up in the back seat of someone’s car, messed up on Speed, Ativan, weed and alcohol—anything to escape the pain of his traumatic past.

“When I finally got into UGM, I decided to do their program. I figured, ‘I don’t have a lot of options left, I should get as much healing here as I can.’”

Today, with nearly two years of sobriety, Justin has a new life goal: “I’d like to be a stable father figure, an example for my kids. I didn’t meet my real dad until I was 18, so I’m trying to stay in contact with my kids so that’s not their story.”

Justin wants to provide for his children, and his newly acquired job skills and work experience should help him do that.

Rex Reishus, who did his business practicum with the City of Spokane water department back in 2019, was hired and continues to be employed with the City today. 

RexIn 2019, Sarah Johnson completed the fourth phase of UGM Women’s Recovery and was placed at Northwest OB-GYN for her 240-hour business practicum. She had shown an interest in reception/clerical duties and therefore was first trained in answering phones, redirecting calls, and ultimately scheduling appointments.

SarahApparently, it took no time at all for the staff to fall in love with her. At the end of her practicum, she was offered full-time employment in the company’s billing department.

Mitchell Long, Chief Executive Officer at Northwest OB-GYN, said this of Sarah: “I’ve never seen a success story like we’ve seen with Sarah, here. She is amazing.”

The following local businesses have partnered with UGM multiple times to provide job training and experience through a business practicum: Able Label, DAA Northwest, Carpet One, Caramel Kitchen, Berg Companies, Northwest OB-GYN, Omega Pacific, Skils’kin, Buck Knives and others.

20190926-2L7A4527Brad and Stephanie Hunter, owners of Caramel Kitchen, exclusively hire their employees from the UGM Center in Coeur d’Alene. Elizabeth Felix Wolfe, a UGM alum, now manages operations and trains new staff. The Hunters explained that the purpose of their business goes way beyond profit: “Having a heart to help disciple others and want to grow them in a Christ-centered environment is way more fulfilling coming to work every day—having a purpose, rather than just being profitable and making a paycheck.”

UGM seeks to address the underlying causes of homelessness and addiction by providing trauma-informed care, holistic recovery, education, life skills and job training so that people might be reunited with their families, find permanent housing, and pursue their lives with renewed purpose.

Interested in being a business partner? Check out the link below for more info.

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