Welcome to the 10,000 square foot Commonpoint Queens Hub, a one-stop social service center in Elmhurst, Queens. In the community surrounding the Hub more than half of all children live in households that are below or near the poverty level (Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York, 2017). It is also home to one of the most culturally diverse populations in the United States.
The Hub targets community members who are seeking a way out of poverty. The programs and resources offered are designed to serve the area’s diverse population by taking steps such as offering translation assistance in a number of the languages found in the neighborhood. We are making it easier for individuals and families to access and participate in them.
This virtual tour of the Hub highlights some of the resources and programs including Adult Employment, Digital Food Pantry, Vocational Training, English to Speakers of Other Languages, Work Supports, Financial Counseling, and Legal Services.
The first stop is our Adult Workforce team. Need assistance finding a job or advancing your career? Looking to enter or reenter the workforce? Our team of dedicated Employment Coordinators can help!
Employment Coordinators meet one-on-one with you to provide career counseling, networking skills training, resume and cover letter writing and revision, interview prep, and more.
After you have secured your new job, our staff will continue to support you for a full year. We are there as you transition into your position, learn how to navigate your workplace, and resolve any conflicts that may arise.
ASHLEY’S STORY Ashley came to Commonpoint Queens in search of vocational training certification and job placement assistance. She earned her Medical Assistant Certification in 2012 but struggled to find a job. She eventually took a position but found it difficult to provide for her family due to her job’s inconsistent hours and low hourly wage. She asked the Adult Workforce program to help her update her credentials and find a job in the allied health field that offered a living wage and consistent work hours.
Ashley enrolled in and attended career readiness workshops where she was able to update her resume, practice her interviewing skills, and receive professional clothing for interviews from our partner agency, Bottomless Closet. Once she completed the career readiness workshops, Ashley was referred to one of our educational providers where she earned her Dialysis and EKG Technician certifications. She immediately started looking for work.
Unfortunately, the stressors of being a single parent were taking a toll on Ashley’s mental and emotional health, so her Workforce Counselor referred her to Commonpoint Queens’ Single Parent Initiative program. Ashley received individual counseling and was connected to additional resources that helped her find quality, safe childcare for her children while she looked for employment. In October Ashley found a full-time job as an EKG Technician. She is earning a living wage and can already see her path to career growth.
ELLEN’S STORY “I reached out to your workforce because I have been out of work for some time. To make a long story short, I have been a teacher for over 15 years and due to unforeseen circumstances, I lost my job. I could not find a teaching job and I even tried other fields but to no avail. I met Ahuva and she made me feel human again. She understood what I was going through. She was very compassionate towards my needs, and on the first day introduced me to the food pantry. That was a blessing for me and my family. She then helped me rewrite my resume. Teaching is my passion and I love it. She saw that in me when I was doubting myself. With her help, I secured an interview at a yeshiva in Queens. The interview went well and I did a demo lesson. They hired me. I am now teaching 2nd-grade boys. If it wasn’t for me walking into Commonpoint Queens and meeting Ahuva, I don’t think I would have gone back into teaching. She really knows how to make people feel good about themselves and guide them when they are trying to get back into the workforce. I am so excited to start working again.”
For more information contact:
Denia Tavarez, Director of Business Development
Ahuva Yelizarov, Employment Coordinator & Community Outreach Liaison [email protected]
Loan Assistance with Hebrew Free Loan Society
When federal unemployment benefits ran out, many New Yorkers saw their incomes drop by $600, leaving them scrambling to pay for their basic needs. As part of Commonpoint Queens’ workforce programs and initiatives, the human services organization has partnered with the Hebrew Free Loan Society to offer several loan options specifically targeting small business owners who have been impacted by the pandemic.
In addition to loans meant to support small businesses, Hebrew Free Loan Society also has options to help New Yorkers keep up with rent payments, make up for lost wages, cover medical expenses, pay for child care, or any financial challenges with no-fee, no-interest loans. Their loan programs include:
- Coronavirus Loans provide up to $5,000 with just one guarantor
- General Needs Loans provide up to $7,500 with two guarantors
- Health Care Loans provide up to $10,000 with two guarantors
- Vocational Training Loans provide up to $15,000 with two guarantors
- Undergraduate Loans provide up to $7,500 per year with two guarantors
- Small Business Loans provide up to $50,000 with two guarantors, with lower amounts available with one or no guarantors
All new HFLS loans will have a three month grace period before repayments begin.
Any and all low- and moderate-income New Yorkers living in NYC’s five boroughs, Westchester, or Long Island are eligible to apply. HFLS is a non-sectarian lender, providing assistance regardless of an applicant’s religion, citizenship status, or credit history.
Digital Food Pantry
Next we visit the Digital Food Pantry. Going to bed hungry is something many of us will never experience. Unfortunately, in Queens, there are thousands of seniors, children, and working people who regularly experience hunger. These are people who are forced to make decisions like “Do I pay for my medication or food?” “Do I pay the rent or buy groceries?” “Can I skip two meals today so my child can eat?”
Hunger and food insecurity are not problems limited to the most marginalized in our society. In Queens alone, almost 7% of employed adults are food insecure, while 8.8% of older adults and just under 12% of children in Queens experience hunger. These are unconscionable statistics.
In the Hub we have kiosks for clients to access and place orders to our digital food pantry. Food will be delivered twice a day to the Hub, allowing clients to pick up critical food items without having to miss work or appointments.
TATYANA’S STORY Tati is a typical teenager and her parents were living the American middle-class dream. Then both of her parents were laid off from their jobs and their savings were quickly gone. Her mother registered for our coding certification class and her father decided to go back to school. Tati remembers many times when there wasn’t enough money for a bus and her parents walked miles to their classes.
Tati found tremendous support at our Strive Program. Her counselor advocate provided Tati with one-on one counseling and connected her to our Work Supports Department. They helped her navigate the complexities of programs like SNAP (food stamps). Thinking back on that time, she recalls, “There were times we only had crackers in the house. We would have never made it without this kind of help from the counselors.”
Although they lost many things during this dark time, Tati’s family has come a long way. Her father earned his degree and is now working as a Registered Nurse. Her mother is also back to work as a coder for a web start-up. As for Tati, she is applying to college where she hopes to study social work. “I know how important this work is and how it can really help people. I want to do that.” Tati said.
For more information contact:
Jhadran (Jay) Rojas, Food Pantry Coordinator
As we continue down the hall, we meet the Vocational Training Department. Vocational training programs are offered to eligible adults and out-of-school youth. Our training programs are in high-growth occupations and help participants develop the skills needed to make them sought after candidates in competitive industries. Certification training is available in a variety of allied health areas such as dialysis, EKG, phlebotomy, pharmacy technician, and Certified Nurses Aide. Technology certifications are offered in Comp TIA (IT training), web coding, and solar panel technician. Alongside the vocational training, participants who successfully complete their program are eligible for paid internships.
A number of new vocational training options are being introduced with the opening of the Hub. Come on in and see for yourself!
A brand new state-of-the-art professional kitchen is a key centerpiece in the new Hub where we are offering two certificate programs, a 15-hour food handler and a 12-week culinary arts certification. Our students are extensively trained in food handling, safety and sanitation, and both high-volume and á la carte production. Students receive intensive culinary training in our commercial kitchen, as well as on-the job training while they prepare fresh, healthy meals for Commonpoint Queens’ senior and early childhood programs and summer camps.
After successful completion of the course, we help our graduates find high-quality jobs such as utility, line and deli cooks, catering attendants, grill station managers, bakers, garde-manger and more.
For more information contact:
Brynn McCormick, Assistant Vice President, Adult Workforce
Independent Freelance training is perfect for those with an entrepreneurial spirit. We help you build the skills you need to be your own boss as an independent freelancer. You can earn supplemental income, practice newly developed professional skills, build your work experience, and design a flexible work schedule. You will learn how to find freelance work, create an online work profile, develop your personal brand by using social media and market yourself, learn how to provide great customer service, create contracts, and manage finances and taxes.
We continue our tour by taking a sharp right turn and heading into one of the classrooms. Rows of computers are at the ready for students of all ages looking to improve their computer skills in preparation for reentering the workforce or advancing their skills and careers.
The computer lab is also home to Pre-High School Equivalency (Pre-HSE) and HSE classes. Students who read below a 9th grade reading level are first enrolled in Pre-HSE classes to bring their literacy and math skills up to a high school level. After completing the Pre-HSE class, students enter the HSE class and begin their preparations to take the Test Assessing Secondary CompletionTM High School Equivalency (TASC) exam.
English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)
Next door to the computer lab is an ESOL class filled with conversation and laughter from students from around the world. These classes are often the first opportunity new immigrants have to integrate into their new community. ESOL students also participate in HSE classes, vocational training, and workforce development.
For more information contact:
Courtney Wiggins, Digital Literacy & ESL Instructor
Advance & Earn
Advance & Earn (A&E) is a new New York City initiative to support young people aged 16–24 who are not in school and not working. Advance & Earn works with students who should be on the path to higher education or work, but have somehow fallen through the cracks. They are young people who may have hated school but now have the motivation to break the cycle of poverty, unemployment and violence. In A&E we build a safety net around each student that supports them in every aspect of their journey.
Advance & Earn offers Pre-HSE, HSE and advanced certificate training in high-growth fields such as allied health, culinary arts, and Information Technology. Alongside the vocational training, participants receive paid internships to help alleviate financial stressors on them and their families, college exploration (a possibility that may have seemed unattainable), and mental health services.
According to the Young Adult Literacy Program-Center for Economic Opportunity report, 2015, “one in five youth between the ages of 16 to 24 in New York City is disconnected from the worlds of school and work.” These alarming numbers are a call to action to all, to provide the services and resources that will reconnect young people to promising futures.
For more information or to apply for this program visit www.commonpointqueens.org/advance or contact:
Evelyn Herrera, Senior Director of Opportunity Youth; Director of Advance & Earn [email protected]
Just down the hall we meet the Work Supports Department. Here you will find a team completely dedicated to supporting our most vulnerable seniors, people with special needs, and those who seek their pathway out of poverty and into long-term stability. As we go from office to office we’ll introduce you to the various programs offered.
SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (SNAP)
JASMINE‘S STORY Jasmine is a single mother with two sons, ages 9 and 4. She recently lost her job and is struggling to support herself and her children. She came to us for help completing a SNAP application. During her intake interview, we were able to refer her to our digital food pantry and Single Parent Initiative program, and get her transportation assistance. Jasmine’s older son drew a picture for their case manager and said, “You made my mother smile so much.” He wanted to be able to make her smile in return! Jasmine is now an active client with our employment team, and looking to secure full-time employment.
NEIGHBORHOOD DEVELOPMENT AREA (NDA)
Neighborhood Development Areas are NYC designated communities that work to combat poverty and provide emergency services to low-income individuals and families. NDA Initiatives foster community-level engagement to ensure that residents have opportunities to bring themselves out of poverty, contribute to change in their neighborhoods, and ensure that the services offered address the most pressing needs of each community.
For more information contact:
Susan Meza, Work Support Programs and Tax Assistance Coordinator SMeza@CommonpointQueens.org
In partnership with the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) and a small cadre of committed volunteers, we offer financial planning services including paying down debt, creating and maintaining a budget, establishing a savings plan, dealing with income and expense volatility, establishing and improving credit, and committing to financial goals.
For people living in or near poverty or just starting out in their careers, financial planning takes a backseat to immediate needs like food and housing. It is easy for an individual or family to be thrown into financial crisis by setbacks like unexpected expenses or a reduction in income. Our financial counselors help clients through the financial crisis and coach them to long-term financial stability.
ALEX’S STORY “I have been meeting with John on a monthly basis for a while now. I always make sure to carve out time for my monthly appointment. John is honest, reliable, supportive, and knowledgeable. He listens to my goals/needs and pushes me to make the best and sometimes hard financial decisions because he believes in me. With John, I have learned how my seemingly small financial choices can have big consequences as well as the wide-variety of financial tools available to me. John also assisted me in receiving student loan forgiveness and helped me set-up a retirement plan. I am so grateful that Commonpoint Queens offers financial coaching without any barriers.”
For more information contact:
Anita Swerdin, Queens Career Connect
The New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) uses the power of the law to help New Yorkers in need combat social and economic injustice. We are a proud long term partner with NYLAG and are excited to welcome them to the Hub. NYLAG lawyers and advocates tirelessly fight for fair and equal access to justice for those who need it most.
SERVICES FOR SENIORS
SANDRA’S STORY Sandra is 64 years old and lives in Bayside. She has lived in her apartment for more than 20 years. Sandra worked for many years and built a stable middle class life for herself. A few years ago she lost her job and could not find another position. She soon ran through her savings and fell several months behind on her rent. She finally found a new job and tried to work with her landlord to pay the rent she owed. The landlord gave her a timeline to pay but it was at an unaffordable amount. Her landlord filed eviction papers. Sandra came to us and we referred her case to New York Legal Assistance Group’s (NYLAG) financial professional and their housing attorney. The counselor reviewed Sandra’s finances and together they created a new household budget. The NYLAG housing attorney reviewed the eviction documents and advised us that if we could provide a check (through our partnership with the New York Times Neediest Cases Fund) to the landlord, the eviction proceeding should drop. We provided the check but Sandra’s landlord refused to accept it. The NYLAG attorney wrote a letter to the landlord telling them that it is illegal for a landlord not to accept our check if it would prevent an eviction. The landlord ignored NYLAG’s letter. NYLAG then contacted the NYC Housing Authority. The Housing Authority sent a letter stating they were coming out to inspect all of the landlord’s properties. The landlord dropped the eviction case, accepted the check, and apologized to the client.
SERVICES FOR SINGLE PARENTS
A single mother of one child came to us. She had left an abusive partner earlier in the year and was starting over financially. Luckily she had a steady job. Because she had no access to the marriage’s joint funds, she fell several months behind in paying her utility bills. The utility company refused to work out an affordable payment plan. We referred the case to NYLAG who advised our social worker and the client that it is illegal for a public utility to not offer a fair payment plan. We contacted the Public Commissioner’s Office for Utilities, and the client was able to work out a manageable monthly payment plan to pay off her arrears.
For more information contact:
Leslie Kraut, Single Parent Initiative, QueensNet
THE TIKVAH PROGRAM SERVING THE GREAT NECK AND QUEENS COMMUNITY
As part of the Tikvah Program both in Queens and Nassau County, we recently assisted a family. A member of the Commonpoint Queens staff along with a NYLAG attorney from their Senior Health Care Department visited a couple in their 80’s. The husband has dementia, however, it was never properly diagnosed and the wife is now exhibiting the early symptoms of dementia. The couple’s adult child also lives with them and suffers from mental health issues, which further complicates the family’s situation. Together with the NYLAG attorney we began the process of getting homecare, Medicaid, and SNAP benefits for the family. In addition, we arranged for a nurse to visit the home and assess and remove a number of significant safety issues.
For more information about our Workforce Hub, please contact Brynn McCormick, Assistant Vice President of Adult Workforce, at 718-268-5011 ext. 161 or email [email protected].