An Indiana-based cleaning company is now providing women with the chance to change their lives through temporary work opportunities. The South Bend company, titled My Best Friend Services, has partnered with St. Margaret’s House, an organization that provides services to underprivileged women, to help women get back on their feet by opening the door to employment.
The cleaning company needed workers after landing a contract position at University of Notre Dame, according to owner Jacki Elliot. After not garnering enough feedback from advertising at job fairs, she turned to St. Margaret’s, where she had helped with clothing donations in the past.
According to Kathy Schneider, executive director of St. Margaret House, the women she helps often struggle with poverty, have a gap in work experience, are introverted, or have some criminal history. As a result, they are often unable to acquire work.
“This was the first time someone walked in and said ‘I want to hire your women and I don’t care what their background is,’” Schneider said. According to Legal Momentum, women are 35 percent more likely than men to be poor, with single mothers facing the highest risk.
The lack of affordable healthcare in America has been a continual burden on struggling mothers. There are an estimated 11.5 million single-mothers in America who are left to decide how much of a part-time paycheck will go to healthcare, rent, food, and other necessities.
In addition, women escaping domestic violence also face the threat of abusive partners limiting their economic freedom by controlling their bank accounts and garnishing paychecks.
Government-based assistance programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families do not provide a sufficient safety net for families that have fallen into hard times. The program doesn’t provide enough support to prevent homelessness, hunger, or utility cut-offs, especially for single mothers who have only worked part-time.
Elliot’s company starts workers full-time at $12 an hour.
“Women need to be empowered through knowledge and opportunity,” Elliot said. “When I started this company I wanted to pay women a living wage.”
8.5 million out of the 11 million families with children under the age of 18 are composed of single mothers, according to census.gov. In a 2016 U.S. Income and Poverty report, the poverty rate for women between the ages of 18 to 64 was 13.4 percent, as opposed to the 9.7 percent rate for men between the same age range.
According to Elliot and Schneider, the lack of employment opportunities for women living in poverty can severely impact their self-esteem and prospects.
“Not only are they under employed, they are under utilized and undervalued,” Elliot said. “That’s the perception I want to change.”
Tomeka Carter, one of the women working for the cleaning service, was promoted to a supervisor position and stated that she’d always felt capable of being in a leadership position but had never been given the opportunity before joining Elliot’s company.
“I’m treated like a person that has feelings, not as another machine just doing a job,” Carter said. “They see our worth and that’s all I can ask for.”
Schneider said that Elliot was opening the door to opportunity but that it was up to the women to take advantage of it and do the work.
“All the credit goes to the women who get up [every] morning, are on time and do eight hours of hard work,” Schneider said. “The women who have had really tough lives are the ones walking through that door.”
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