A local nonprofit is introducing a new program designed to combat generational poverty.
Seton House, in partnership with the Casper Housing Authority, is launching a nationally recognized self-sufficiency program called Connections to Success, though they’ll refer to it just as Connections.
The program includes a professional development class, job training and access to a network of state agencies, community organizations and local businesses that have signed on to aid participants.
“We’ve been working on it for more than two years,” said Seton House executive director Deanna Frey, who is optimistic about the initiative. “We did our due diligence, we examined it, we studied it, we met with the founders, we met with people running programs (in other communities).”
The professional development aspect of the program entails a three-week virtual class that will meet for three hours, four days a week. The first group will be small — between four and six people, comprised of Casper Housing Authority and Seton House residents — and the nonprofit hopes to host the class four times over the year.
It’s been paid for by community fundraising over the last year and a handful of grants, Frey said.
The big-picture goal for Connections would be to make it available to any resident, Seton House programs manager JoLynn Wright said, but COVID-19-era funding challenges forced the organization to scale back.
The silver lining is it gives the nonprofit a chance to collect vital information about the program’s outcomes before taking it to the entire community.
“To start small will help us to really make sure we get that data and be successful,” Wright said.
Eventually, Frey said, the whole community will benefit, not only those taking the class and doing the job training.
First, in establishing the framework for Connections, Seton House has built bridges across agencies, community organizations and local businesses that Frey and her team said will now help any resident seeking services in the city.
“Part of the whole program is to remove barriers from people,” Frey said. “Instead of setting up 18 more hoops to jump through, why don’t we consolidate the hoops and maybe remove some?”
If someone goes to Seton House, or any of the partner agencies, seeking services another agency can provide, the pathways have now been built to make those connections, Frey explained.
The agencies that participated in the program’s pilot committee include the Department of Workforce Service, UW Family Practice, the Department of Family Services, Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies, Interfaith of Natrona County, Community Action Partnership, Wyoming Housing Network and Casper Housing Authority.
The other piece of the network, which Frey said is where the community benefit will come in, is through partnerships with local businesses. Job readiness training is a major component of Connections, but putting those lessons to use requires working toward a career.
“The real work begins after the class,” Wright said.
Through partnerships with local businesses, Seton House will be able to help graduates find employment in a field they’re interested in, but Wright said they don’t want to give anyone false expectations. Getting into the field they want might require taking an entry-level job in the industry or doing something else first to get the needed experience.
Either way, she said, the nonprofit will continue supporting graduates’ goals long after graduation.
“Our participants, once they leave us, we’re going to support them lifelong,” Wright said, referencing the program’s Life Transformation Coaches. Wright explained that “LTCs” are like case managers but on a deeper level.
The different terminology is also intentional, “because people aren’t cases and they don’t need to be managed,” Wright said.
LTC Toni Lattea works with all of Seton House’s residents, not just the select few going through Connections. But those going through the program will have Lattea’s help as they work toward their career goals.
Connections to Success’ founders set this as their main intention: to get people living-wage jobs and to help end generational poverty. The Missouri-based nonprofit has offices in St. Louis and Kansas City and has been propagated by nonprofits across the U.S.
Single parents, high school students, incarcerated people and senior citizens have all been among graduates of the program, which boasts impressive outcomes for participants, like a 74% initial employment rate and a 70% job retention rate nine months later.
Frey is hopeful the effects of Casper’s program will be as wide-reaching.
Follow local government reporter Morgan Hughes on Twitter @morganhwrites
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