Listen to the audio story:
Tucson needs to do a better job of connecting its many social service organizations and job training agencies, according to people who have used those services.
The job-training organizations also need to help trainees support themselves while they complete training education programs to prepare for a new career.
Those are some of the recommendations from people who have relied on job training programs in Tucson as a way to change their lives.
Alan Jolivett got off of an airplane in Tucson in the fall of 2005, with no belongings, no job and no home. He had just survived nine days awaiting rescue from the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and didn't know he was coming to Tucson until the airplane landed.
A trained longshoreman, who loaded and unloaded cruise ships and other boats in the Gulf of Mexico, he had to find a new career in the desert.
While Tucson was prepared to absorb the hundreds of evacuees making a new life here, Jolivett learned that even the organizations that successfully helped him, such as JobPath, could be improved.
Cesar Aguirre has had a different experience. The single father was born here, and said he was raised in poverty. He dropped out of school and used drugs before he became a father, but when his older daughter was born, at 21 years old he decided he needed to change his life.
"Growing up, my parents moved us around trying to get us out of the so-called 'bad neighborhoods.' Their idea of getting us out of poverty was getting us out of bad neighborhoods," Aguirre said.
Aguirre makes $10 a week living and working at Casa Maria Soup Kitchen. It isn't a shelter, but a small number of people live there, he said.
Casa Maria Soup Kitchen is a Catholic service agency, which means it is focused not just on charity — feeding those who need it — but also on helping people turn their lives around, making a living on their own.
Aguirre is actively involved in the Tucson Bus Riders' Union and his daughters' school because he learned how important education is. The union encourages bus riders to participate in public policy discussions that could affect them.
"City is already talking about raising fares, and we want to make sure that doesn't happen, because that would impact our community greatly," he said.
Aguirre and Jolivett have relied on local organizations to help them with their temporary or long-term poverty.
JobPath is a job-training organization that connects trainees with training programs or finds funding sources to cover their education costs.
"We sponsor people in training, mostly in community college at Pima," said Andrea Robson, president of the JobPath board of directors. "We get them enrolled, give them financial assistance that varies from individual to individual."
Jolivett got an associates degree as a restorative certified nurse through JobPath, and is now working on a degree in physical therapy.
He needed a new career when he moved to the desert because his previous experience was on boats in a coastal city.
"Someone like Alan came to us and he had to be totally retrained," Robson said.
But Aguirre and Jolivett said they have seen some holes in the service system in Tucson.
"Education is one of the main things that can help," Aguirre said, along with finding jobs. "A lot of people in my community are really willing to work, but there's no full time jobs out there."
While Jolivett benefited from JobPath, he said it is important to create jobs for people while they are training or getting education for a new career.
"We need more groups and help to go through those programs, not just grants that help you go through it, but something you can get into immediately and start building basic income," he said.
More than anything, said Robson, flexibility is key.
"We need to be flexible in our approach we need to be flexible in our training, we need to be flexible in seeking, train for the jobs that are going to be here in two or three years," she said.