By Marty Trese, KnoxPages.com Editor
MOUNT VERNON – The kick-off of a new program designed to help those living in poverty make their way to self-sufficiency was held Wednesday morning at MVNU’s Ariel Hall. The event brought together elected officials, representatives of businesses, the courts, law enforcement, the schools, and non-profit organizations. The effort called “KnoxWorks” was started about 6 months ago by Dan and Barb Humphrey of TouchPointe Marriage and Family Resources. When they began their faith-based nonprofit to help those with relationship issues seven years ago they didn’t know a component of their effort would be connecting those in poverty with local employers. Today, TouchPointe has locations in Mount Vernon and Fredericktown.
The problem is two-fold. Nearly 15% of our community is living at or below the federal poverty level, according to data from December 2016. 19% of our community receives food assistance. Men and women with a criminal record find it difficult to find an entry-level job. KnoxWorks will pre-screen and help willing and capable men and women get and keep employment.
“We are about relationships. As a result we prefer to call the men and women we work with our neighbors, as opposed to clients. ‘Clients’ kind of gives you the indication that we view people as projects, we don’t like to look at people as projects,” said Dan. “It’s our desire to coach to a solution, not be the solution. We talk about a hand up not a hand out.” KnoxWorks will help provide employees at no cost to local employers.
One of Touchpointe’s clients is Tom (not his real name.) Tom was released from prison in April of last year. He took a job search class at Opportunity Knox. They saw he had the potential to be willing and capable and referred him to Touchpointe. Volunteers there worked with him and found a “Core Employer” who was willing to give him a second chance, and he was hired in August. Tom completed the roofing season, and his employer plans to give him full benefits next year when the season starts again.
Dan Humphrey, left, Touchpointe Marriage & Family Resources and Dave Phillips, Co-Founder Cincinnati Works share the vision for KnoxWorks - KnoxPages.com photo by Marty Trese
The model for KnoxWorks comes from Cincinnati Works. Dave Phillips is co-founder of that agency, who spoke at the event Wednesday. Phillips says despite the war on poverty, which began more than 50 years ago, poverty has gone up in every metropolitan area in America. He said, “It is time for all of us to come together and say it’s not acceptable – this cancer called poverty.” He cited statistics showing that 60% of those in poverty have chronic depression and anxiety. Those mental health issues are some of the barriers to self-esteem, employment and self-sufficiency.
To better understand the concept of KnoxWorks both Phillips and Humphrey recommend the book, “Why don’t they just get a job,” by Liane Phillips and Echo Montgomery Garrett.
Touchpointe has received support in the launch of KnoxWorks from Knox County Job & Family Services, The Community Foundation of Mount Vernon and Knox County, The Knox County Chamber of Commerce, Knox County Health Department, Area Development of Knox County, United Way of Knox County, and Ohio Means Jobs Knox County.
For more information contact KnoxWorks at 740-485-0951 or [email protected]