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CHANGING PERCEPTIONS: New Waterloo program is breaking down barriers to employment

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WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) - Waterloo will be the first pilot city of the "Momentum Program," to help those with barriers to employment become successful.

"This program, specifically, is really for giving folks second and third chances," Waterloo Momentum Program Director Joyce Levingston said.

The program is part of the nonprofit organization One City, and began seven years ago in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Momentum has a 90% job placement rate in Kalamazoo, and representatives in Waterloo hope to have the same outcome.

A history with drug addiction, past incarceration, transportation issues, and even homelessness are all possible barriers to employment. This program will assist people in becoming potential candidates for future employers.

"We're trying to change perceptions a little bit to help them understand that just because someone has maybe made a bad decision in their life, maybe they've had a felony, maybe they've had past drug use, maybe transportation has been a real struggle for them to get to a job, that that doesn't mean that they can't be a good, loyal, strong, talented employee for them," One City Executive Director Dean Feltes said.

One City's site says that while Waterloo's unemployment rate is less than 3%, there are neighborhoods where unemployment is sometimes as high as 40% because of various circumstances.

Joyce Levingston says the need for this type of program exists here in Waterloo.

"The dis-proportionality in jobs and economics, especially with people of color here in Waterloo, it's kind of imperative that we have something like this going on," Levingston said.

The program has two open enrollment days: Tuesday September 15 and Wednesday September 16 at 907 Independence Avenue in the ReaLife Church building in Waterloo.

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Diego Hernandez

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