Stories & Voices
Out of Office, But Not for Long
September 8th, 2020

Losing a job is always hard, but losing one because of a global pandemic may even be tougher. The landscape is constantly changing, and new skills need to be quickly mastered.

Ana, 48, was working as a lunch helper in a local public high school and an afternoon babysitter before the pandemic’s swift onset left her unemployed. She has significant company, too. The unemployment rate in New York City this past June hovered at just over 20 percent; a year earlier, it was less than 4 percent.

“I was very worried for my finances and for the future,” says Ana, a mother and primary caretaker of twin teenage daughters. Ana also relies on child support that is frequently late. “I became very depressed, and started looking around for help.”

She found it at the Adult Workforce program at Commonpoint Queens, a UJA core partner with expertise in job training and career development.

“My career counselor helped me apply for programs to help with my basic needs like rent and food, and then she encouraged me to sign up for free training to become a certified home health aide,” explains Ana.

Commonpoint connected Ana to a career placement service. Shortly thereafter, Ana was offered work through two home health agencies. She is set to begin working in September after she completes orientation.

“I’m feeling much more confident about the future now,” says Ana proudly, who knows her new job will help meet her daughters’ needs and allow her to become more independent. “I hope to keep growing in the medical field.”

Many of the people who turn to Commonpoint for help and community are single mothers like Ana. But its clientele is as varied as the borough it serves: Queens is the most ethnically and culturally diverse urban area in the world.

“We have clients of all ages, backgrounds, and education levels show up to our doors,” explains Ahuva Yelizarov, an employment coordinator and community outreach liaison at Commonpoint, “Anyone can need our help navigating the workforce, especially in these times.”

Ahuva is working with her clients on rebranding themselves to appeal to employers in this newly uncertain workplace. Virtual workshops, on topics like acing online job interviews and succeeding in a gig economy, help those who are still seeking employment to remain motivated.

This fall, Commonpoint will open a new “one-stop shop” hub in Queens, part of UJA’s centennial initiative, which will expand its current employment services and also offer a range of other social services. Clients will be able to enroll in a culinary arts training program and virtual classes in web coding and development.

More opportunities mean more people finding work and supporting themselves and their families. And that’s not just a job for UJA — it’s a calling.