It’s 3 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon and Felice Kaplan has spent most of her day at the Wells Fargo Career Development Center at the West Los Angeles Library.
She uses the center for free access to computers and internet to search and apply for jobs as often as she can.
Sometimes they let me sit for five hours and they don’t kick me out! Without them, I don’t really know what I would do,” says Kaplan, 57.
Her past jobs include being a special events staff member at L.A. Live and she says that access to websites like Craigslist, Indeed and LinkedIn help her stay aware of job fairs that offer similar ready-to-fill positions.
“There’s two job fairs I’m going to for Staples Center…” Kaplan says, “[I’m going] to see Lebron James hopefully at practice and Bruno Mars.”
While she aspires to see celebrities, she knows she must find work quickly to help pay for the West LA apartment where she lives with her son, but computer and internet access is critical for her job search and application process.
“It’s not like the old days, I can’t just fill out an application and get a stamp to mail it,” Kaplan says. “The computer makes the difference. That’s where I find the jobs.”
According to the The 2018 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, almost 50 percent of those experiencing homelessness for the first time said it was due to job loss or other financial reasons. Stories like Kaplan’s show how access to technology – like computers and the internet – is becoming a fast-track to finding jobs.
For Robert Davies, 50, access to technology was key to finding a fulltime job.
Homeless just a few years ago, Davies knows how quickly life can change.
Shortly after moving to Los Angeles, Davies suffered a severe accident that left him hospitalized for seven months and eventually unemployed.
“Because I’m not from Los Angeles, I didn’t know that many people and I didn’t have a lot of friends,” Davies says. “I stayed with a few of the friends that I could while I was getting back on my feet, but then that runs out.”
He ended up at a city shelter while looking for work and like Kaplan, credits access to technology for finding his current job.
Throughout his job search, Davies owned both a computer and a cellphone that enabled him to discover current job openings and connect with potential employers.
Now gainfully employed as a sales representative, he understands how different his situation would have been without access to technology.
“Once you get the interview, they want you to give them a resume,” Davies says, “then they want to contact you. So, if you don’t have a computer, you don’t have internet, have access to a resume and you may not have a cell phone, how do they follow up with you?”
Mark Edwards is the vice president of government relations for JVS SoCal, a workforce development nonprofit in Los Angeles. He agrees that technology is a point of entry for employment and says that it’s up to those in the workforce development sector to facilitate a stronger relationship between access to technology and employment.
“Technology presents opportunity for people to get employment, it’s just a matter of building up the infrastructure to create the pipeline to actually help people get into those jobs,” Edwards says.
His work involves increasing access to and awareness of employment-related services to those critically at risk of becoming homeless and those who have already fallen into homelessness, the key is timeliness.
“If we don’t catch you within a specific period of time, then it becomes harder and harder to get you out of being homeless,” Edwards says.
While information for the nonprofit’s free career training programs, resume workshops and job placement services can be found on fliers and bulletin boards at local libraries, Edwards shares that the agency’s website is still their fastest way to reach job seekers.
“We’re in the process of updating our website to make it more user friendly,” Edwards says. “We want to make sure that when they look up ‘job search,’ JVS SoCal pops up, they go on to our site and we can begin to get them engaged in the process.”
A 2017 study by a nonprofit research organization found that 70% of the total homeless population was unemployed. Additionally, nearly one quarter are looking for jobs.