Roadblocks to work make the world a sticky place

Roadblocks to work make the world a sticky place

Man on steps holding sign that reads jobless, will work for mortgage

Roadblocks to work make the world a sticky place

Key Points

  • The hindrances to people finding work goes far beyond an unwillingness or inability to work.
  • Those looking for work face many barriers that range from circumstantial to systemic and even policy roadblocks.
  • It is important that we understand the roadblocks faced by those looking for work so that we can properly address them as we move people into work opportunities.

A story about work barriers

I met a gentleman earlier this year (we’ll call him Lenny) who stated that “he just wants to work”. His basic needs are being met, at least for now, but he can’t stand the idea that he isn’t able to contribute. While talking to Lenny and hearing his story, I realized just how many physical roadblocks he has to overcome in order to start a job, show up at a job site every single day to do the work, and get a paycheck. There are basic requirements, the things that most people take for granted as necessary and easy, that create huge barriers for Lenny.

I will share a few of these physical roadblocks below that Better Work is addressing as we work with Lenny.

Joyelle wasn’t looking for a handout, she was looking for an opportunity to provide and support her family.

Joyelle wasn’t looking for a handout, she was looking for an opportunity to provide and support her family.


This is one of the first barriers Lenny has to consider that impacts his ability to work. His main mode of transportation is walking. He walks to shop. He walks to appointments. He walks to work when he can. Lenny will also take the bus if it is available when and where he needs to go. He has no other options for transportation.

This means that Lenny can’t work in positions that start before the bus can get him there or end after the bus stops running (currently at 8:30pm) unless that business is close enough for him to walk. He also can’t accept jobs that require him to work on Sundays because no public transportation is currently available then.

Inconsistent Work

The transportation challenges described above have caused Lenny to leave a position he worked in faithfully for 2.5 months to look for another. A change in scheduling meant he was no longer able to stay in this job. This can lead to job hopping and means Lenny is unable to get the traction he needs to set goals, get raises, and improve his current situation.


Lenny has never really used computers as most of his past work has been in jobs requiring physical labor. He has a phone and recently set up an email address but doesn’t really understand how to check it or communicate that way. This creates additional limitations in a world that more often than not requires communication via technology at every level and for any occupation.

Applications and Hiring Paperwork

Most job applications are online as well as the forms that must be completed during hiring. All of this is necessary. How else will hiring managers collect the information they need to pay you and to protect your data. These online requirements can become a roadblock for someone like Lenny.

Lenny is not so very different from others I talk to on a weekly basis. He is actually in a better position than some. Fortunately, Lenny has an ID. Many don’t. Lenny doesn’t have children at home. Many do.

Society is quick to judge people who are not working. We are quick to label them as lazy. I ask you to consider what you would do if you were in Lenny’s place. The barriers mentioned above are just a drop in the bucket for people who find themselves caught in a vicious cycle of need.

Meanwhile, Lenny continues to fight for what is important to him – the dignity of work!

Better Work Columbus will continue to fight alongside Lenny and support others like him. I urge you to be slow to judge, wary of pointing fingers, and quick to show encouragement.



It’s Graduation Day!

It’s Graduation Day!

It’s Graduation Day!

Key Points

  • First graduating class of Jobs for Life and BETTER WORK Columbus partnership
  • Jobs for Life and BETTER WORK are joining forces to get help lift people out of poverty
On July 7th the first group 11 men and women graduated from the Better Work Jobs for Life class at the Asbury UMC training site. This course was the first of its kind in partnership between Jobs for Life and BETTER WORK Columbus.The goal was to give men and women a stronger foundation in life skills so they can go on to be reliable employees for local businesses.

“The Jobs for Life job-readiness training course helps men and women understand their dignity and God-given identity and gifts, develop character, and foster a supportive community that will equip them for work, life, and their overall goals. This method, combined with soft skills training, has proven to enable unemployed and underemployed men and women to find and keep meaningful employment.”

The Columbus community came together to support this group of students overcome their circumstances, and we are excited to see this partnership become a staple of the BETTER WORK program.
Jobs for Life BWC graduation
Jobs for Life BWC graduation
Why one woman turned down a $70K job due to the benefits cliffs

Why one woman turned down a $70K job due to the benefits cliffs

Frankie and Luisa

Why one woman turned down a $70K job due to the benefits cliffs

Key Points

  • Frankie made an unexpected choice when she turned down a $70,000 a year job opportunity while living in hotel housing.
  • Oftentimes people on safety net services make rational choices to stay on these services because the system would punish them before they have a firm place to land.
  • Frankie,  in a place of crisis, was unwilling to gamble with a stable choice despite a potentially great job opportunity.
  • Our safety net services must be reworked to address these “cliffs” and rebuilt to encourage and support the move into the workforce.

The thought of someone turning down a well-paying job to stay on welfare seems absurd. But that’s the exact scenario Frankie Johnson faced. It’s a real world example of the way benefit cliffs hurt people. Thankfully, Frankie found the BETTER WORK program and is on a new path to success.


An unexpected journey in life

Frankie Johnson, a Washington, D.C. native, grew up in a middle-class neighborhood and spent time serving her community. Through her community service work, she connected with many individuals who were victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, job loss, and poverty. By the time she’d reached her teens, Frankie knew she found fulfillment in working alongside others to improve their lives. 

At age 14, Frankie became pregnant with her first child, Evelyn. She gave birth just before her 15th birthday. She went on to get an internship through Job Corps, then earn her high school diploma. After graduation, she attended California College of the Arts in San Francisco, where she planned to study photography and 3D installation. 

But leaving Evelyn in Maryland with her parents while she studied in California proved to be too difficult a separation for Frankie. She moved to New York instead, which allowed her to see her daughter more often. 

At age 18, Frankie married a member of the military who was six years her senior. His deployments and resulting war-related trauma proved to be difficult on the family and the couple’s marriage. For the next six years, they lived in Texas and the Midwest before returning to Maryland. Steadily, the situation with Frankie’s husband deteriorated. 


It’s time to stop funding poverty.

And start finding solutions.

It’s time to stop funding poverty. And start finding solutions.

High aspirations, hidden pain

Despite the trouble at home, Frankie was a high achiever, building a career in human resources and working for firms such as Monumental Sports and the Nick Cannon Foundation. She worked as a high-end event planner, where she regularly brushed elbows with celebrities and influencers. 

When the family returned to Maryland, Frankie found herself heading up events for women who were victims of domestic violence. Meanwhile, at home, she was living in an abusive environment herself. 

“At home, I never knew what was going to become of my peace or if he was going to get triggered,” Frankie says. “I was serving in the community as a social worker. I put on events for women, took them on yacht parties, and tried to boost their self-esteem. No one knew I was suffering so much.”

Finally, the situation in Frankie’s home came to a head, and she fled to Atlanta with her children. Her uncle lived in the city, and she planned to make a fresh start there. 

But that fresh start didn’t come quickly or easily. 


Seeking safety in Atlanta

Without a job or a place to live, Frankie was forced to seek out government assistance and transitional housing in Gwinnett County for her family. 

“This was my first time being on the opposite side of transitional housing and understanding what the women who would talk to me [in the past] were going through,” she says. “It was strange to see the scarce resources, and to see women locked out of their hotels because the projects or community partners ran out of funding.” 

Transitional housing in hotels and apartments can cost women $500 or more per week, and according to Frankie, the living conditions are unsafe and unsanitary. Worse, residents got a chilly reception from their case workers when they raised concerns. 

“The water makes your skin itchy, and there are roaches coming up out of the sink and the drains,” Frankie says. “We were told we needed to boil our water to use it. It comes [out of the faucets] brown, and we had brown rashes on our bodies.”

While Frankie’s family was living in transitional housing, she experienced relentless prejudice, racism, and ridicule. 

“I had people come to my hotel, and ask me if I was a prostitute because my daughter said we were living in a hotel at school,” she says. “Someone from [the Department of Family and Children Services] came to my apartment and asked if I left my children [alone] at nighttime. He asked me if I was a stripper.” 


Forced to choose between assistance and higher income

While Frankie was waiting for available childcare and a pathway to affordable housing, she was forced to turn down a job placement that would have paid $70,000 per year. While she needed employment, she also needed the support from the government program. That was her ticket to a home she could afford, but she wouldn’t qualify if she took a new job that raised her income past eligibility requirements. 

“I never thought it would come to this,” she says. “I hadn’t prepared financially; I spent through my savings because I was waiting on childcare.” 

Frankie found herself trapped on what we call the Benefits Cliff — torn between taking steps toward a more secure future, but ultimately forced into making decisions that trapped her into long-term dependence on government benefits. Individuals and families who make over a certain amount of income per year are automatically struck from the list, and are no longer qualified for affordable housing, food support, or other government assistance. 

“They want to see your pay stubs, your bank statements. They want to make sure you’re poor,” Frankie says. “If you have a car, they want to know what kind of car you’re driving and if you have insurance. They want to make sure there’s no possible way you can work a job.”

“If there are no daycare facilities within a 30-mile radius of where you place me in my hotel and I don’t have a car to take my child a city over, I’m not going to be able to get a job,” she added. “Who’s going to watch my child all day?” 

Families in these transitional programs often find themselves stuck paying high bills while they await affordable housing. Frankie was forced to pay more than $2,000 per month for the hotel she and her children stayed in. Financially, staying put made no sense, but Frankie held on in hopes that affordable housing would come through. 

Leaving transitional housing puts parents at risk of losing their children to CPS, particularly if they’re perceived as living out of their vehicle. On the other hand, getting a higher-paying job disqualifies them from further government and charitable support. 

“It’s like a loophole to keep you destitute,” Frankie says. 


Dreams for a brighter future 

After three months in transitional housing, Frankie was able to connect with BETTER WORK Gwinnett. Her case worker, Luisa, formed a close connection with her, encouraging her and checking in on her as she prepared for a fresh start. 

“We lost our jobs during the pandemic,” Frankie says, “and that was the time when we needed encouragement and to find our way again — laugh again. Ms. Lusia provided a lot of that. She called me every day just to check on me.”  

After experiencing the frustration, humiliation, and helplessness of transitional housing herself — including witnessing another mother abandon her children when her time at the hotel was up — Frankie wants to help other women in similar circumstances. She hopes to go to law school to provide legal aid to other families who have suffered at the mercy of the system. 

“We need to get them their GEDs and diplomas. Start them off as home health aides, CPAs, LPNs, RNs, physician’s assistants, or doctors,” Frankie says, “But no one’s willing to help. They just want to enable their programs to get money for housing us. After that, you’re out on the street like a dog.”  

As for Frankie, she’s working with Luisa to get back into the human resources field, and considering a move to a more affordable city in south Alabama. 

“I’m not going to sit and wait for anyone to take care of me,” she says. “For the women who don’t have options, I’m going to school to fight for them.”

Better Work Providing On-Site Unemployment Assistance

Better Work Providing On-Site Unemployment Assistance

Better Work Providing On-Site Unemployment Assistance

Key Points

  • BETTER WORK Columbus is launching a new service allowing us to assist clients on-site.
  • BETTER WORK provides connections to local resources and work opportunities. 
  • Listening and responding to the needs of our community is how BETTER WORK better serves those in need.

Client assistance just got a little bit better

BETTER WORK Columbus is now able to assist clients on-site. We enjoy assisting our non-profit partners and helping them connect clients with employment. This is a new dimension of our work and is proving to be very helpful to non-profit organizations in Columbus and the surrounding area. Our non-profit partners who are focused on providing resources like housing, food, or assistance with utilities know that their clients also need the stability that comes with work. Meeting their clients on-site is a way for BETTER WORK to allow them to focus on their lane while we leverage our existing resources to help with the employment connection.

“Home for Good is partnering with BETTER WORK Columbus to help formerly homeless clients obtain and sustain employment so they can end their cycle of poverty,” said Terry Gallops, Home for Good Director. “Kristin Barker, BETTER WORK Program Manager, has been very successful in fulfilling this need by helping our clients as they complete applications and establish contact with potential employers. We are exceptionally pleased with the success of the BETTER WORK program, and several of our clients now have substantial employment!”


For Latesha, finding work was more than a paycheck. It helped her start a life journey that had meaning and purpose.

For Latesha, finding work was more than a paycheck. It helped her start a life journey that had meaning and purpose.

Meeting the need

Kristin recently shared why this is so important. “We enjoy meeting people where they are and where the need exists. It is in these spaces where we can learn more from each other and connect in new ways that will make all groups and all people in our community more successful. It’s a pleasure to help people like James who are looking for an opportunity to improve their lives by earning a steady income.”

If you are a non-profit and would  like to take advantage of the support and tools that BETTER WORK has to offer, send an email to and start a conversation today!


Jobs For Life Collaborates With BETTER WORK in Columbus

Jobs For Life Collaborates With BETTER WORK in Columbus

Jobs For Life Collaborates With BETTER WORK in Columbus

Jobs 4 Life Meeting in Columbus

A Partner For Life

Several of the Chattahoochee Valley Poverty Reduction Coalition (CVPRC) member organizations attended the May 26th Jobs for Life class to share information on resources and talk with students about overcoming the roadblocks they face. Some of the potential roadblocks discussed included mental and emotional health, childcare challenges, and needed education and training. This Community Resource panel was able to help students understand the steps they must take to overcome these challenges and others.


Responding to the needs in a community is paramount to our success.

Learn how our community partners stepped up to support the needs in Columbus through area-businesses.  

Our Partners Matter

We would like to thank Candace Muncy (United Way-211), Dr. Asante Hilts (Columbus Health Department), and Jessica Neal (Goodwill) for attending as well as Jamie Thomas (Enrichment Services) and April Hopson (Columbus Technical College) for sending representatives on their behalf.

Our entire Jobs for Life team and students appreciate you!

Job for Life classes are successful because of our community partners and volunteers. If you are interested in learning more about these classes and getting involved, visit our website at


BETTER WORK has changed Latesha’s and Shay’s lives forever

BETTER WORK has changed Latesha’s and Shay’s lives forever

BETTER WORK has changed Latesha’s and Shay’s lives forever

A newly released video shares the impact of BETTER WORK with the world

For single mothers, Shay and Latesha, the effects of being trapped in the system meant that not only were they impacted but their kids were as well. Like most mothers, all they wanted for their kids was an opportunity to thrive and have a better life. But unlike many parents, the instability of work presented a sense of hopelessness that both Shay and Latesha struggled to overcome.

In 2020, the Atlas Network, an international organization that partners with over 500 think tanks around the world to remove barriers to opportunities; and empower individuals to live a life of choice came to Georgia to create a documentary on the Georgia Center for Opportunity. What they found was a program that was bringing dignity through work to a struggling community in Columbus, GA.

The moving story of Shay and Latesha overcoming adversity as they joined the Georgia Center for Opportunity’s groundbreaking BETTER WORK program (then titled Hiring Well, Doing Good) is a powerful one. It is one that both highlights the struggles many low-income mothers face, while showing an example of the dignity that can come out of programs that empower individuals.


“Dignity comes from us giving what we’ve been gifted with back to the world and figuring out our place in it,”

– Joyce Mayberry

BETTER WORK means a better opportunity

The BETTER WORK program started as a pilot program to help address the entire need of unemployed or underemployed individuals. Many people struggling and living on government assistance need a community to come around them to address immediate needs as well as vocational needs. BETTER WORK is designed to do just that. It is a program that brings together local resources through non-profits and businesses. Through mentorship and community, BETTER WORK is helping get individuals in sustainable and rewarding work.

Shay and Latesha’s story is just one example of how something as simple as work, can lead to a thriving and hopeful future for an entire family. It is why work is more than just a job to those in need. It provides hope, dignity and a sense of purpose.

The Georgia Center for Opportunity is proud to have been able to share this story and thankful to the Atlas Network for making sure the world sees it.