Philly DA's office helps disadvantaged job-seekers now to prevent crime later

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- On the first Thursday of every month, the Philadelphia district attorney's office connects community members to resources and jobs through neighborhood-based events. Its One-Stop Job and Resource Hub, now conducted online because of COVID-19, is finding success.

G. Lamar Stewart, chief of the community engagement unit for the Philadelphia DA’s office, says the Hub, which launched in September 2019, has been able to connect more than 2,000 residents in distressed communities with services including housing, victim services, trauma care and employment.

"People were struggling with just extreme poverty and job loss and hopelessness, but also the trauma that comes with gun violence. So we wanted to bring them the resources they needed,” Stewart said.

The employment piece is huge for the DA’s office. The office has a philosophy that jobs help reduce violence. Stewart says they took the effort online via Zoom when the pandemic hit.

"We put a team of community liaisons on the streets and put fliers in the hands of people in the community, letting them know that we are here," he said. "So, whether people are home or underemployed, people can tune in from wherever they are."

The One-Stop Hub is also broadcast on Facebook and on YouTube. The latest event took place Dec. 3, thanks to a partnership with area faith leaders.

The Hub conducts a monthly survey of employers and, since their launch, Stewart says, employers have hired about 550 people.

"You get direct access to the director of human resources or whoever is hiring," Steward said.

Employers give a presentation explaining their company and what jobs are available. Attendees then have the opportunity to reach out to real people, unlike what happens on job websites.

Tom Hessert, of Hessert Chevrolet in Northeast Philadelphia, says he had been trying to figure out how to reach people and find new employees during the pandemic.

"The DA's office pitched the idea to us, and we were looking to hire some people, so we decided to give it a try," Hessert said, adding that it was his first time ever doing a job fair.

"Some people may not ever consider the automotive industry, but once people hear all the different jobs that are available, they may choose us."

Hessert hired Louis Monroe for a service manager position, which started in August. Monroe's previous job was at U-Haul, but his hours had been cut because of the pandemic, and his long commute made part-time employment there not feasible for him.

"It was easy," Monroe said. "I got to reach out to a real person. I got hired in two days."

Stewart says the employment portion is just part of the community engagement work of the DA’s office, and they are working to expand.

"We want to make sure that we really meet the needs of the community," he said. "We have some recovery programs for people who are dealing with addiction, and other wrap-around services. We really see this as providing alternatives to gun violence."

Stewart says the office believes that, if they provide Philadelphians with options for jobs, treatment and other services, with time their efforts will prevent crime.

The next One-Stop Job and Resource Hub event will take place on Jan. 7. Follow the district attorney's office for updates.