Category Archives: Article

Finished at 50? One Man’s Journey From the Street to His Feet

By Kate Eberle

A company car pulls up in front of the Communitas office and a beaming, energetic 50-year-old man gets out. When he sees Jason Schlatter, the Executive Director, his face breaks into a grin. “Nice wheels, man!” Jason shakes his hand and claps him on the shoulder.

You’d never know it to look at him now, but Jim was homeless for almost a decade. A construction worker by trade, he fell into trouble shortly after achieving his associate’s degree, and the fees and interest on his school loans nearly tripled during the time he was incarcerated. When he was released, Jim quickly found himself on the street. He managed to secure a spot in a supportive housing program, just squeaking by on the odd construction jobs he picked up with his one asset: an old Dodge Ram pickup. But when the truck’s transmission went out, the $3,000 he was quoted for the repair might just as well have been $100,000. With no steady job and no way to get around to construction sites to find one, Jim wondered if this was it for him: finished at 50.

Through word of mouth, Jim found the Glendale Communitas Initiative, a nonprofit founded in 2014 to help people overcome poverty. His case manager, Priscila Vergara, helped him put together a personalized plan to get him back on his feet. Together they rewrote his resume and started his expungement process, renegotiated his school loans, and they found a promising job lead –– but it required a working truck. Jim got several quotes on the cost but couldn’t figure out how he could possibly pay for it.

Reviewing the quotes, the Communitas team noticed that one of them was from a shop next door. They walked over, talked with the owner, and his generosity and the help of a few local donors, the transmission was fixed. Jim interviewed several times and landed that job, which eventually came with a company car.

Jim is now living independently, with benefits for the first time in his life. After partnering with a volunteer certified financial planner, he is now debt-free and planning for retirement. Within 8 months of teaming up with Communitas he is now totally self-sufficient. Today he’s paying it forward, helping other homeless men and at-risk kids find their way off the streets. Far from finished at 50, Jim’s just getting started, “I finally feel I’m able to make it on my own.”

Jim’s story is just one of many local residents who’ve teamed up with Communitas to overcome poverty and get back on their feet. Last year, Communitas increased the monthly income of their program participants by an average of 123%! To learn more, visit them at www.GlendaleCommunitasInitiative.org

From the Executive Director

In March of 2015 we launched Communitas and our poverty recovery program. On behalf of the Board, Priscila, and myself I want to tell you how grateful and privileged we are to have worked with and come to know so many wonderful community partners. Through our combined services and outreach we’ve been able to advance the health and well being of our neighbors while simultaneously strengthening the bonds between agencies, churches, and the city as a whole. By doing good, together:

  • Communitas increased access to wages and income supports by an average of 74%
  • 50 immigrants received free legal seminars on working and residency
  • 1,325 people have been educated about Communitas and local services
  • Nearly 600 people received our service resource guides
  • Over 300 volunteer hours have been donated
  • We collaborate with 15 churches, 9 nonprofits, & several city departments
  • Over a dozen families and individuals are now moving out of poverty

From a mother whom we helped escape domestic violence and become independent: “If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have the courage to do this on my own. Having that support changed my whole situation around and made a big difference in my life.

A man who’d been homeless 4 years and is now working and living on his own: “Without Communitas I don’t think I’d be where I am today.

All that we accomplished since March 2015 we did working half time. You can imagine how much more good we could do if we had the funds to work full time! That would mean 20 more families getting on their feet or moving out of the homeless shelters.

In 2016, we are launching a monthly series of events out in the community to help people get jobs, handle money better, get healthier, and move forward. This means more free legal seminars, a fiscal literacy class, health assessments, and much more. We won’t be doing this alone. We continue to engage with the community across a number of platforms and with various partners: Glendale Library and Parks, Glendale Healthier Communities Coalition, CV Alliance, Healthy Start Collaborative, AEBG Consortium, Teen Night Out, and many others.

As we approach the close of the year, we ask you to make an investment in helping support those in our community who want to move up and out of poverty. During the month of December, every dollar you give online or mail to the address below will be matched by another donor, up to $5,000. This is a marvelous gift to Communitas and we need to make every dollar count between now and the end of the year.

The need is great. The model is working. Our participants and community is responding:

I finely feel that I will be able to make it on my own.

We invite you to join us on this initiative and thank you for your support of the ongoing success of Communitas as we continue Doing good, together!

Jason Schlatter
Executive Director

Glendale Communitas Initiative
350 N Glendale Ave, Ste. B265
Glendale, CA 91206

Chicago gave hundreds of high-risk kids a summer job. Violent crime arrests plummeted.

This article comes to us from The Washington Post. Beyond a reactive solution to teen crime rates it touches upon using prevention to address not only crime but health and education. The article is posted here in its entirety without further comment.


In a year full of distressing stories — especially about race, crime and violence in urban neighborhoods — this one points to some hope. Earlier this December, we covered a summer jobs program in Chicago that appeared to lead to fewer teenage arrests for violent crime. Our original story, republished below, also reminds us that policy solutions are possible — and possibly even inexpensive.

A couple of years ago, the city of Chicago started a summer jobs program for teenagers attending high schools in some of the city’s high-crime, low-income neighborhoods. The program was meant, of course, to connect students to work. But officials also hoped that it might curb the kinds of problems — like higher crime — that arise when there’s no work to be found.

Research on the program conducted by the University of Chicago Crime Laband just published in the journal Science suggests that these summer jobs have actually had such an effect: Students who were randomly assigned to participate in the program had 43 percent fewer violent-crime arrests over 16 months, compared to students in a control group.

That number is striking for a couple of reasons: It implies that a relatively short (and inexpensive) intervention like an eight-week summer jobs program can have a lasting effect on teenage behavior. And it lends empirical support to a popular refrain by advocates: “Nothing stops a bullet like a job.”

Researcher Sara Heller conducted a randomized control trial with the program, in partnership with the city. The study included 1,634 teens at 13 high schools. They were, on average, C students, almost all of them eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Twenty percent of the group had already been arrested, and 20 percent had already been victims of crime.

Some of the students were given part-time jobs through the program, working 25 hours a week at minimum wage ($8.25 in Illinois) with government or non-profit employers. They worked as camp counselors, office assistants, or in community gardens, among other places. Other students in the treatment group worked 15 hours a week at similar jobs, but also received 10 hours a week of “social-emotional learning” time, where they learned skills to manage their emotions or behavior that might get in the way of employment. All of the students in the program received mentors as well. The teenagers in the control group participated in neither part of the program.

Heller used Chicago Police Department data to follow what happened to all of the students in the 16 months after the program began. In the crime data, there was no difference between the students who got the counseling and those who did not, suggesting that the group working 25 hours a week may have acquired some of the same social-emotional skills on the job. There was a big difference, though, in the violent crime arrest data between the teenagers who got jobs and those who did not:

Summer jobs reduce violence among disadvantaged youth” by S. Heller in Science

A lot of things could be going on here. Teenagers who might have committed crime to get money would no longer need to when they have a job. If their added income allowed parents to work less, they may also have gotten more adult supervision. It’s also possible that students who were busy working simply didn’t have idle time over the summer to commit crime — but that theory doesn’t explain the long-term declines in violent arrests that occurred well after the summer program was over.

Heller, in fact, found that most of the decline came a few months later:

Heller

That long-term benefit suggests that students who had access to jobs may have then found crime a less attractive alternative to work. Or perhaps their time on the job taught them how the labor market values education. Or maybe the work experience may have given them skills that enabled them to be more successful — and less prone to getting in trouble — back in school.

This one study can’t identify exactly why a summer jobs program might change the trajectory of teens at risk of becoming violent. It also raises the possibility that teenagers with summer jobs might have more money to spend on drugs (drug arrests for the treatment group were slightly higher than for the control). These results do suggest that cities could get a lot of payoff for the minimal cost of a summer-jobs program — particularly if it targets teens before they drop out of school. As Heller writes:

The results echo a common conclusion in education and health research: that public programs might do more with less by shifting from remediation to prevention. The findings make clear that such programs need not be hugely costly to improve outcomes for disadvantaged youth; well-targeted, low-cost employment policies can make a substantial difference, even for a problem as destructive and complex as youth violence.

Emily Badger is a reporter for Wonkblog covering urban policy. She was previously a staff writer at The Atlantic Cities.