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Posted: June 01, 2011

Guest column: Employment is the best medicine

By Susan Kiely

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Over the next 10 years, job opportunities for individuals who have an education in nursing will increase as much as 27 percent, offering strong opportunities for women.

Women With A Cause Foundation has been assessing where the jobs are and how to get women back to work. After establishing skill-training centers in India and Africa, the foundation is taking on the cause of disenfranchised women in Denver.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the current recession and a 10 percent to 15 percent unemployment rate will force 1.5 million more people into homelessness over the next two years.

In the U.S., medical professionals are desperately needed, especially with the growing increase in nursing job openings. The need within the health-care industry is burgeoning as baby boomers - the largest segment of any over-25 demographic - continue to age and nursing replacements in the upcoming rank-and-file are so few as to be nonexistent.
Nursing is a sustainable profession with salaries starting at $47,000 per year, so WWAC decided to focus its work here in the U.S. on homeless mothers and homeless women veterans. Understanding the root cause and trends endemic to this particular brand of homelessness is crucial: These are not chronically homeless women, drug addicts, diagnosed mentally ill or paroled criminals.

About 47 percent of these women have some education past high school, and issues such as divorce, downsizing, or voluntarily exiting career paths to take care of sick children or aging parents are reasons most often cited as catalysts for their homelessness.

As a result of this data and research, in January, 2011 WWAC launched the WE Initiative - We educate, empower, elevate. Women With A Cause will provide a path to self-sufficiency for homeless mothers and female veterans through health-care education and career opportunities. Through a partnership with Regis University, Community College of Aurora and the University of Colorado's College of Nursing, these women will enter a four-year course that will enable them to receive a bachelor of science degree that will enable them to become a registered nurse.

WWAC has engaged in partnerships with schools that educate nurses (such as Regis University), and at the beginning of this year started to find women to participate in the program. WWAC has been working with local nonprofits focusing on this community and has identified women to participate in this inaugural year of the WE initiative.

Over the next six months, the women will be put through a rigorous emotional and intellectual assessment to make sure they are ready for the commitment. An integral part of the commitment made by Women With A Cause includes, but is not limited to mentors, tutors and safe living environments for them and their children.

Individual case management will facilitate such programs as TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families) and Pell Grants. Tutors will be available on a seven-day basis to provide help with traditional academic courses, as well as math and sciences. The mentors will be women experienced in nursing from a variety of industry backgrounds and entering the twilight of their careers. A special honors cohort has been created so that our WE Scholars can become well-educated in geriatrics.

Before beginning their study at area schools the women will take an eight-week class that features stress and time management; parenting; writing and study skills and fiscal responsibility. It is the hope of Women With A Cause that at the end of the four years of study the WE Scholars will have a bright future for themselves and their children.

For more information or to get involved please see our website at www.womenwithacause.com  or call 303-675-0405.
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Readers Respond

Great to see Susan's energy and connections are bringing about life-changing opportunities for Denver-area women. Her tireless commitment is to be commended. More importantly, these efforts open doors and make things possible that were never in the scope of reality for these women and families. Vetting the participants in advance will be a huge key to success and is a model that will probably turn out to be very strong in terms of end results. By Mary Anschutz on 2011 06 16

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