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New Jobs Program Looks to Help Astoria Houses' Residents Land Work

 The East River Development Alliance launched Jobs Plus to tackle unemployment at NYCHA's Astoria Houses.
Jobs Plus Program Launches at the Astoria Houses
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ASTORIA — A new employment program in the Astoria Houses in Queens is looking to get more residents of the sprawling NYCHA campus back to work.

Neighborhood social services group The East River Development Alliance (ERDA) is spearheading Jobs-Plus, which provides career-coaching, financial counseling, work placement and other services to any of the thousands of residents.

The program was started in March but had its official launch last week.

Just 37.5 percent of adults living in the Astoria Houses are employed, according to Jobs-Plus  director Kristina Sepulveda.

The program looks to tackle a number of factors that can make it difficult for residents to find employment, she said, including education, access to transportation and, for single parents, finding child care.

"Unemployment isn’t just about there not being jobs. There are some serious barriers," she said.

ERDA has offices in the Astoria Houses campus and has been serving the neighborhood for over eight years. The agency has built working relationships with many Queens merchants and businesses, including retail stores and the many hotels near LaGuardia airport, which look to ERDA for potential employees.

"In this area, transportation is not the easiest thing, so we try to fortify those relationships that are along the bus lines," Sepulveda said. "We have three buses that come right to our door — the Q18, Q102 and Q103 — so that’s where we really focus our development strategy."

But Jobs-Plus aims to be more than just work placement, Sepulveda said.

"The idea is that individuals see long-term career and financial stability growth. A career is not built out of one job," she said.

Available services include help with resume writing, finding a GED program, opening a bank account, learning money management and how to manage your credit score.

Ruth Taylor, an Astoria Houses resident working as a community engagement coach for Jobs-Plus, said many people can often feel overwhelmed by a job hunt, particularly if a large amount of time has passed since their last job.

"That can be a barrier — the time itself," she said. "That's when the frustration sets in, and the doubting. Is there a job for me? Where should I go now?"

She said she's signed up over 120 people for the program, but is looking to reach many more.

"We basically canvas the neighborhood. We go to the popular places we know people congregate. The bus stops, the rec centers, the barber shops," she said.

"We're just like, 'Here's what we have to offer. There's hope. Come on in.'"