BOISE, Idaho — Removing barriers to employment: yet another angle community nonprofits are looking to take on in the midst of an affordable housing crisis in the Boise area. One Boise nonprofit, Create Common Good, is helping people jumpstart their careers -- and it all starts with food.
And two inspirational program members are proving how this training is leading them to not only help themselves, but the economy as whole.
"I was very isolated for a good solid five years," said Kara Erickson, a trainee in Create Common Good's foodservice skills program.
Erickson's had to deal with some things most young people never have to. And the same goes for Benjamin Compton.
"Sometimes I felt like people would judge me because of the autism," said Compton.
Erickson's suffered from a brain tumor in high school.
"Uh chemotherapy, and not being, I mean... I needed to stay away from a lot my peers," said Erickson.
And Compton was diagnosed with autism.
Now in their twenties, they're pursuing self-sufficiency.
"I feel like I'm getting to that point in life," said Erickson.
And they're not letting any former diagnoses stop them from diving head-first into a career.
"I look forward to maybe get a job in a kitchen behind the scenes."
It's a transition made possible by Create Common Good.
After graduating, Compton got hired at St. Luke's-- a paid job with benefits such as tuition reimbursement.
"I'm planning on working a year at St. Luke's and then I'll consider colleges."
But this program doesn't just help the individual in training-- it also helps the taxpayer.
"They're able to come off of food stamps, they're able to come out of low-income housing."
And it prevents homelessness. According to a recent study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (Out of Reach 2019: Idaho), an Idahoan with a job paying minimum wage would need to work 67 hours per week to afford a modest 1-bedroom rental home at fair market rent. This-- emphasizing the importance of a skilled workforce.
"What they need most is just a chance. They need to have an environment where we believe in them until they believe in themselves," said Cyn Reneau, the CEO of the nonprofit.
And for both Erickson and Compton,, they say, with this training, they've every reason to believe in themselves and their future.
"It's been almost like a medicine in and of itself," said Erickson.
"It made me feel like I was part of the team already," said Compton.
The program helps trainees receive their ServSafe certification -- something all food handlers employed in Idaho restaurants are expected to have. To learn more about the boise-based 501c3, visit their website.