February 15, 2017: 

Greater West Town Appears before U.S. House Ways and Means
Subcommittee on Human Resources: 
Testimony Advocates for Combating Urban Poverty Through Job Training

The Geography of Poverty

On February 15, 2017, GWTP Executive Director, William Leavy, and Linda Thomas, Director of Client Services, testified before the U.S. House Ways and Means' Subcommittee on Human Resources to deepen public understanding of the extent and impact of poverty in urban communities and to share the agency's experience using community-based job training tocombat poverty at the individual and community level.

For full version click HERE     For highlights click HERE


January 15, 2017:
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The Greater West Town Community Development Project has been 
attracting job-seekers for more than 25 years

Reprinted/Posted with permission from original article:

Students enrolled in GWTCDP’s Woodworking Program watch their Instructor [Doug Rappe] perform a task. | Wendell Hutson/Contributor.
By Wendell Hutson
Contributing Reporter
(Archived from Thursday, September 10th, 2015 1:58 PM)

Throughout its 26-year history, the nonprofit Greater West Town Community Development Project (GWTCDP) has provided free programs to anyone needing help getting ahead in life, according to the organization's officials. But don't just take their word for it.

"Listen to our participants and you be the judge," said the organization's founder and executive director Bill Leavy.

Adonis Cbounes, 20, lives in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood on the South Side, but traveled Wednesday to GWTP, 500 N Sacramento Blvd, to apply for its 12-week Shipping and Receiving program.

"The reason why I decided to apply is because I have two friends who went through the program and now they have stable jobs. I have been to Jobs Corps, but it did not help me get a job," said Cbounes. "The jobs I had before were not consistent. At this point I want stable employment after I finish school."

Cbounes attends Kennedy-King College in the Englewood neighborhood and ultimately hopes to become a professional singer or music manager.

"If I don't make it as a rapper I want to at least be in the music industry doing something," added Cbounes, whose stage name is "Rocky."

Dionne Hubbard's area of focus is management. 

"I work as a bus boy at a restaurant for the time being but that's not where I plan on staying forever," said the 28-year-old Austin resident. "I would be disappointed if I am not accepted into the program here, because I have heard good things about it and I know it could help me get to where I want to go."

In August, Nancy Coleman and Edward Chatman both graduated from the program and now volunteer as program recruiters for the organization.

After going unemployed for two years, Coleman, a 51-year-old West Garfield Park resident, said she decided to enroll in the program to get some added job skills.

"Thanks to the [shipping and receiving] program, I am a certified forklift driver and I received the same training UPS and FedEx employees got when they were hired," said Coleman.

Chatman said he moved to Chicago from Wisconsin to assist his mother, who was ill and is also a graduate of the Woodwork program at GWTP.

"My mom (Vicky Chatman) graduated from the program in 2004 and she suggested I apply for the program, after seeing me struggle to find a job," recalled Chatman, a 28-year-old North Lawndale resident. "I owe a lot to this program, because it provided me with valuable job skills that I know will carry me far in life."

But besides the woodwork and shipping and receiving programs, GWTP also runs West Town Academy, an alternative high school for young adults between 17 and 21 years old. I n the last two years 190 students graduated and received their high school diplomas, according to Kent Nolen, the school's director.

One student, Desmond Ewing, 19, said he dropped out of high school when he was 17 and did so because he was on the verge of getting kicked out for poor attendance. The North Lawndale resident said he will be graduating from West Town in 2016 and plans to go to barber college.

"I didn't feel I was learning anything anyway at my old high school. I was going to school every day to hang with my friends," said Ewing. "A year later I realized I made a mistake. That's when I decided to get back into school."
Another student, Justin Harris, said he dropped out of Team Englewood High School on the South Side after missing too many days from school. The 19-year-old, who lives in the West Englewood neighborhood, said he missed a lot of days because he had to stay home and help his mother take care of his little brother.

"My mother had a baby and needed help getting around the house and no one was available but me," explained Harris. "My dad had to go to work and my other siblings had to go to school. I sacrificed my education to help my mother and I would do it again if she needed me."

Unlike other alternative high schools, where armed security guards walk the hallways, West Town does not use security guards or metal detectors.

"That's not our philosophy here. We don't want to react to conflict we try to resolve any conflicts before it escalates into something worse," said Nolen, a former Chicago Public Schools principal.

One thing that concerns Nolen, Leavy and other administrators at GWTP is the pending state budget, which has not yet been finalized by the governor and General Assembly. Collectively, Linda Thomas, director of client services; Juliann Salinas, assistant director; and Robert Fittin, training program director, said elected officials are out of touch with reality and their internal differences with each other is hurting families who are already in crisis.

"I think [Gov. Bruce] Rauner does not have a clue how his cuts are affecting having social service agencies and low-income households," said Salinas.

Fittin suggested that without a state budget in place soon, the organization could be forced to make some hard choices.

"I don't know exactly what those decisions would be, but I'm sure it would include laying off staff or reducing services we offer," Fittin said. "Either way you look at it, there's no upside to it."

Thomas, who has worked at the organization for over 20 years, said she is praying for a miracle.

"Only God can fix this mess caused by a group of people who have no idea what it is like to go hungry," she said.

Still, Leavy said he is optimistic that the organization could survive any further cuts from Springfield.

"You heard all the stories from our participants. And there are many more success stories West Town has created; but without funding, it will be hard to continue our mission to build a community-based response to expanding [free] educational and economic opportunities for disadvantaged residents," he said.


Spring, 2011 

Greater West Town Helps Lead Local, National Advocacy Efforts to 
Preserve Federal Job Training Funds 

Massive Federal Job Training Cuts Turned Back – For NOW ...

For more than 2 decades Greater West Town has been a leader in advocating for increased public investment in educational and economic opportunities for low-income youth and adults. 

In the Spring of 2011, Greater West Town stepped up once again, to help lead the fight against a U. S. House of Representatives’ plan to “zero out” federal funding of the “Workforce Investment Act” (“WIA”). GWTP worked with fellow non-profit job training agencies, elected officials, community members, employer partners and participants in our programs to organize a “Community Speak-Out” against the cuts. Held on March 24th at our new Community Career Education & Community Development Center, the event was closely coordinated with the National Skills Coalition and dozens of other national groups that had designated March 24th as the “National Workforce Day of Action.” GWTP spearheaded the planning for the Speak-Out over several weeks, accompanied by a growing crescendo of advocacy by our students and alumni, community members, and local employers in our Business-Community Partnership. In the build-up to March 24th, all these stakeholders wrote letters and made phone calls to members of Congress, urging continued funding of WIA.

Community Partners, Erie House, JARC, OAI, Join the Fight . . .
“WIA is an essential investment in the communities we serve,” declared Bill Leavy, GWTP’s founder and Executive Director, to a crowd of more than 100 gathered at the Community Center that day. “The people we serve are the ones who are still hardest hit by this ongoing recession. Why would Congress take their opportunity and hope away? I don’t want to see one less person in our training and placement programs. We have to put people back to work!” 

GWTP staff, participants and employer partners gave testimonies, as invited dignitaries U.S. Senator Dick Durbin’s Chief of Staff Clarisol Duque and U.S. Congressman Danny K. Davis listened intently, then spoke to the crowd about their unwavering support for WIA funding. Erie Neighborhood House, Jane Addams Resource Corporation, and OAI, Inc. joined GWTP for the Speak Out; their staff, employers, and WIA program participants added their success stories and calls for continued WIA funding to the testimony, to those of GWTP WIA participants. click here for success stories. Chicago media and the New York Times covered the story of grassroots support for WIA. 

GWTP’s organizing and advocacy efforts, coordinated with our national coalition partners, successfully headed off massive job training funding cuts in the recent 2011 federal budget compromise. However the battle over the 2012 Federal Budget is already in high gear. Again, some Congressional leaders are targeting the most vulnerable, most in-need, and most disadvantaged Americans for further cuts. Greater West Town, our partners and allies, must be ready to again stand up for the most vulnerable among us, and work to open the doors of educational and economic opportunity for low-income families 

and communities.