By Lauren E. Williams, Special to the AFRO
MidCity Financial Community Affairs Director Dr. Robert Johns says he is committed to bringing services to D.C.’s NE Ward 5 neighborhood. By partnering with the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services (DOES) Workforce on Wheels (WOW) program, he is getting closer to doing just that.
The DOES WOW truck has been serving Brookland Manor residents since November 2017. The truck has 16 computers, Wi-Fi, agency brochures and seating areas. The truck provides a wide range of services from resume building and cover letter writing to job leads assistance and interview coaching.
“If you have barriers to employment, be it cognitive disabilities, mental health issues, or if you are a convicted felon, we are trying to make sure we address everything,” Johns told the AFRO.
According to Johns, about 40 people signed up this March to visit the WOW trucks at Brookland Manor. Walk-ups are also frequent.
District-wide, more than 4,000 residents received assistance from the WOW trucks in 2017, according to DOES. More than 1,400 District residents have received help in fiscal year 2018 year to date. The trucks have been in operation since 2015.
Brookland Manor resident Thaddeus James Edwards said he knows people who have obtained employment through the Brookland Manor WOW trucks.
“We are grateful that people are taking the time to come to the community and give ways for residents to get employment,” Edwards told the AFRO. “But you know it is things like this you bring to the community, they are positive things, but you have to keep bringing them.”
According to Johns, MidCity Financial spends nearly $500,000 annually to Brookland Manor residential services. In addition to employment services, the company invests in a food pantry, health fair, meals for children, after-school tutoring, and a summer camp.
This past fall, MidCity and DOES hosted a large career fair, bringing together 44 businesses and community benefit organizations with over 185 job seekers from across the District, including many Brookland Manor residents. The next career fair is scheduled for June 7.
The company is also planning to redevelop the Brookland Manor property. It will soon be part of a larger community called RIA, a 20-acre mixed-use destination that plans to bring together an array of residences, a new town center, local shops and retailers, pedestrian promenades and green space. According to the RIA website, the D.C. Zoning Commission approved the Stage One Planned Unit Development Application for the combined Brookland Manor Apartments and Brentwood Village Shopping Center property in November 2015.
While some residents have expressed uncertainty about the redevelopment, Johns remains hopeful that community services like the WOW trucks can help ease residents’ concerns. All residents who currently live on the property will receive housing once the development is complete, according to Johns. The company is working so that no resident is displaced, even as construction occurs.
“Anything that gives a chance for economic empowerment via increased access to employment and education, MidCity is completely behind it,” Johns said.