The city of Las Vegas, through its EVOLVE program for ex-felons, has been selected as one of only seven cities to participate in a national program to help individuals with barriers to employment secure permanent jobs and progress toward self-sufficiency.
Neighborhood Services Department Director Orlando Sanchez and Allison Effner, program coordinator for EVOLVE, were in Washington, D.C. last week, where the project was officially launched at the Annual Transitional Jobs Conference.
Through a competitive application process, the city will be part of a select group chosen to work with the National League of Cities’ Institute for Youth, Education, and Families; the National Transitional Jobs Network; the Transitional Work Corporation; and the Center for Employment Opportunities to promote a common agenda. The city’s EVOLVE program, through the Neighborhood Services Department, will receive 18 months of technical assistance, access to national experts and opportunities to work with other cities and local community partners to explore options for providing temporary jobs and training opportunities to improve long-term employment opportunities for ex-offenders and others in the community.
“The timing of this project couldn’t be better, as the City Council and I have requested that the EVOLVE program be expanded to include chronic inebriates and the homeless, as well as ex-offenders,” Mayor Oscar B. Goodman said. “Assisting these hardest-to-serve populations in securing and retaining employment is challenging. The technical assistance provided through this project will enable the city to take advantage of best practices from across the country.”
In 2003, the city created the EVOLVE program to address the critical public safety issues and excessive government costs resulting from the increasing number of prisoners released in Southern Nevada without resources. The program assists the unemployed and underemployed ex-offenders achieve self-sufficiency through intensive case management, education, training and treatment.
A majority of inmates leaving prison return to Las Vegas with no savings, no access to stable housing, no health or unemployment benefits and extremely limited employment options.
In its two-year history, more than 1,929 ex-felons have accessed the program’s resources. EVOLVE has provided intensive services to 265 clients and has successfully placed 70 percent of participants in employment at an average hourly wage in excess of $11. The documented recidivism rate for ex-offenders participating in the EVOLVE program is 10 percent; nationwide, that figure is between 66 and 80 percent. With this additional help, the likelihood of continued success is greatly enhanced.
“The selection of the city of Las Vegas to participate in the Transitional Jobs Project is testimony to the success of the EVOLVE program and its cutting-edge approach in working with ex-offenders to reintegrate and welcome them into society,” said Ward 5 Councilman Lawrence Weekly. “I am proud of the city and its efforts to take the lead in this important program and welcome the other local municipalities to actively participate in this program as it is a regional issue that must be addressed.”
The Transitional Jobs Project is funded through grants to the National Transitional Jobs Network from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Rockefeller Foundation. The National League of Cities, the oldest and largest national organization representing municipal governments throughout the United States, serves as a resource and advocate for 18,000 cities nationwide.
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