Helping Homeless Women Become Self-Sufficient

Organization Name
Jubilee Women's Center
Mission Statement

Jubilee's mission is "to provide women a safe and supportive place to live and an opportunity to learn while becoming self-reliant in housing and employment."

City & State
Question 1
The Before: What was the challenge, issue or problem your organization was facing? Or, what was the opportunity you were not able to take advantage of before you put a technology solution in place?

Answer: During the 1990s, as computer use became the norm and the internet began to change life as we know it. Residents at Jubilee Women’s Center in Seattle found themselves on the wrong side of the “digital divide”. Jubilee provides safe and supportive housing for homeless and low-income women in the Seattle area. Many residents had never had access to or instruction on using computers. As a result, they were strongly disadvantaged in the work world and saw employment opportunities pass them by. Without computer access and instruction on the Microsoft Office Suite of programs, women were challenged to fill out job applications, write resumes and cover letters, or complete housing applications or school work. Residents were unable to find and keep jobs to transition out of homelessness.

Question 2
What Microsoft software have you used/are you using in your organization to more effectively engage your beneficiaries, donors and/or volunteers and/or to make a difference in your community?

Answer: Microsoft Office 2007 or 2010 (Includes any of the following: Access, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, OneNote, Outlook, and Word)

Question 3
The After: How have these Microsoft products allowed you to engage your stakeholders more efficiently or effectively to make a difference in your community?

Answer: With the support of the Gates Foundation, Seattle Foundation, Kawabe Fund and a group of dedicated volunteers, Jubilee was able to install an on-site computer lab, the Learning & Technology Center, in 2000. Staff and volunteers developed a curriculum of classes (taught by volunteers), such as multiple levels of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Women can now use the lab and classes offered to gain skills needed in the workplace as well as find and apply for housing. With an average age of 49 years old, many women who come to live at Jubilee have still often been left out of the personal-computer revolution. However, Jubilee now has the equipment, programs and curriculum to educate them in the full Microsoft Suite of programs, giving them the skills needed on their path to self-sufficiency.

Question 4
What about these products (the features or the way you used them) made them particularly helpful in enabling your organization to expand and improve upon its community impact?

Answer: Microsoft products all have the same basic format, so residents can learn one computer “language” and easily apply it to multiple programs. The page layout and commands in Word are virtually the same as in Excel. Once a resident becomes familiar with Word, learning Excel is not as difficult. It is easy for residents to continue to build on that knowledge to learn other Microsoft Office programs used in the workplace, such as PowerPoint and Outlook. Additionally, the Microsoft language has become universal; it is the same that they will face in the workplace or in school. As a testing site for the Microsoft Office Specialist Certification, Jubilee residents can also earn this credential for their resume, increasing their employability and competitiveness in the marketplace.

Question 5
Please provide any examples, stories or data that illustrate the difference the use of Microsoft software has enabled you to make (i.e., # of new clients reached, new program added, increased dollars raised, increased volunteers, etc.

Answer: Three elements are required for self-sufficiency: permanent housing, economic wellbeing and personal empowerment. Microsoft programs empower our residents in each area. Using Word, they can fill out housing and job applications and create professional-looking resumes and cover letters. With training, they possess skills that employers look for. With Excel, residents create and track a budget, helping them feel organized and in control. Resident house managers track household supplies on Excel. Using Windows Live features, women can reconnect with family and friends for free, alleviating a sense of isolation. The Microsoft Suite of programs has empowered Jubilee’s residents to become part of mainstream society, instead of feeling isolated and left behind.

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