King County launched the Jobs and Housing Program using federal COIVD-19 recovery dollars in 2021 to connect people experiencing homelessness to jobs, case managers, and housing support. Participants spend about a year as a King County employee, developing the experience and skills to then secure permanent employment.
Parks was the first division to implement this program and has benefitted from participants working on such projects as the Parks Beautification and the Noxious Weed Removal programs.
Because it’s always the people who make the program, we wanted to check in with a couple of the team members who know the program the best!
Greg, currently enrolled
Greg works with the crew in the Grand Ridge District out in Issaquah.
He says that “each day is a little different.” He does a lot of trail brushing and pulling invasive species such as blackberries and holly, which benefit overall forest health. He also trains with King County foresters, checking on saplings that have recently been planted and learning how to evaluate a site for planting more trees.
“I’m learning about different species of trees, and that’s been really interesting,” he said, but mostly, he puts his back into his work. “I would say it’s 75% physical labor, using power tools, in different natural areas.”
Greg finds working outside incredibly rewarding.
“I love working outside,” he said. “I really enjoy the crew I’m on. Working in eastern King County, in areas like North Bend, is a lot more interesting to me than if I were working in a park in the city. There’s a lot of wilderness here.”
As part of the program, Greg receives weekly job counseling, but even so, he admits there’s some uncertainty for his future. “I was hoping to parlay this into something more permanent, but I’m not so sure what happens after this,” he said. “I do feel like I could fit into this job. It’d be great to stay on, but if not, I’ll move on.”
“I lived up in Alaska and did similar work before,” Greg said, adding that he would continue in this line of work, whether for King County or elsewhere.*
Jarell, completed program
Jarell has lots of positive things to note about his time with the Jobs and Housing program. In fact, he says, “I wish I could have kept working for Parks. Work was fun. I got the chance to show I know how to operate all the power tools.”
There were some bumps along the road, of course. “I had a few run-ins with supervisors about transportation and being late,” he said. “It was hard for them to understand me.”
But overall, Jarell said he enjoyed working in beautiful places, naming Soaring Eagle Regional Park and Duthie Hill Mountain Bike Park as two particular favorites. “And I miss my co-workers,” he said. “Just a little bit!”
Jarell now works for Catholic Community Services as a shelter advocate. “This is actually something that I did want to do,” he said. “I like to help people. Get them what they need. Maybe because I’ve been in that same situation.”
He says the program led to several opportunities, because “I had the chance to prove myself with Parks.”
Jarell specifically credits his former supervisor, Rob Stait, with helping get his foot in the door at his current job. “Rob put in a good word for me. It worked. Now I’m standing here with both feet inside.”
*Update: Greg was hired as a fulltime, permanent employee February 2023 with the North Utility Trail Crew!