Yvonne Smith


Yvonne Smith, receiving the Creating a Community That Works Award at the Ninth Annual Sweet Beginnings Tea

 Yvonne lost her job of 14 years when she was arrested in late 2011 for a 1999 probation violation that she did not even know about. Back then she had been using and selling drugs, but, she explains, “One night in jail was enough for me to learn my lesson,” and she has remained drug free ever since her 1999 arrest.

So in early 2012, out of work, she looked for a job and applied for unemployment, both to no avail. “I was an unemployed ex-offender with no computer skills. I could not even write a resume or apply for a job online. No one wanted me.” So when she heard the NLEN could help her get a job, she enrolled in NLEN’s U-Turn Permitted program.

“When I started U-Turn Permitted, I was skeptical,” Yvonne admits. But at NLEN, Yvonne developed the tools she needed to deal with her hurt and anger and to find a new support system for staying sober – her mother and two nieces. Yvonne remembers Jose, NLEN’s workforce trainer, telling her, “There is somebody out there who needs somebody like you.”

After completing U-Turn Permitted in 2012, Yvonne completed a three-month transitional job with Magazine Professional Service and was then hired on permanently. United Baptist Church contracts with this company for cleaning services and Yvonne is assigned there exclusively. A lifetime North Lawndale resident, not only has this provided her with steady employment close to home, but she has also joined the church and does not miss a service. She says, “This is my home.”

Yvonne has always enjoyed working in janitorial services and hopes to open her own small cleaning business. “I want to help people like NLEN helped me, by creating job opportunities for people like me,” she explains. To get there, in 2013 she started working with NLEN’s Financial Coach through its Center for Working Families to learn how to build credit and manage her income, and the Health and Income Support Coach helped her to secure health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. Starting with no credit score, after completing the credit-building Twins Account she now has a score of 608. On the advice of a Financial Coach, she recently opened a credit card account to raise her score even higher, paying just one bill per month with the card and paying off the debt in full each month.

What’s next? Yvonne is working on her computer skills and continues to build her credit. She hopes to participate in NLEN’s new Self-Employment Pathways for Women program beginning this fall.


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