Participants at the Cavanagh House are getting ready for their classes. They are eager to learn and explore new skills in order to gain new employment with higher wages.
Cavanagh House, a nonprofit organization in Reisterstown, Maryland, was established to break the cycle of poverty through education and support. Cavanagh House offers trade and apprenticeship programs including upholstery, sewing, and a computer surface pattern design free of charge.
It’s a volunteer driven organization with 100 percent of money raised going towards the program. The instructors, Board of Directors and Executive Director are all volunteers who donate their time and expertise without any type of compensation. The sources of funding consist of donations, fundraising events, grant awards, our online retail store and a pop-up home decor and gift boutique.
Stacy McAleer, founder of the Cavanagh House, told the Baltimore Times that her overall philosophy and mission for leading the organization is to serve the community by devoting special attention to people who have very limited opportunities and means, by empowering them with the knowledge and skills that eventually will lead to a career.
“We believe that by providing the people we serve with the opportunity to acquire skills and experience “hands-on” training, they will be positioned to obtain beneficial employment and better provide for their families,” said McAleer.
Sharon Gomez, 43, a single mother of six kids and a program participant at the Cavanagh House knows how it feels to live on a low income. She believes that people who are living in poverty don’t have the resources to learn about finances, how to save, and how to balance life, work and family, successfully.
“In this lifestyle, it is important for a single mother to learns different trades, whether trained, or not, to get some income. Cavanagh House offers a golden chance to learn a trade for no cost, depending if eligible, it is [too] big [an] opportunity to miss,” said Gomez.
Across Maryland, many families are struggling to survive on a low income. Lack of affordable housing often forces poor households to spend more than half of their income on housing. Poor households are also more likely than other renters to sacrifice other necessities like healthy food, pursuing education, and or learning new job skills to improve their financial situation.
Gomez said that the hardest part of living with a low income is the lack of resources and support. People were biased towards her as she was labeled as a person who was evicted, alone and ignorant.
“There was a severe lack of moral support from the family, little-to-none in the church, and social services did not approve any type of benefits until 4-5 months after I applied,” said Gomez. “I applied for medical, food and cash assistance at the time. I was not receiving benefits. Nevertheless, the services are inadequate for clients who are actively seeking to make a change, and my actions demonstrated that I was trying to get on my feet, after I lost my home,” added Gomez.
A prolonged exposure to poverty can lead to both long-term physical and mental health consequences. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8.7 percent of people who lives below the poverty level report severe psychological distress.
“There’s usually underlying mental health issues and imbalance in structure because the single parent has to work— sometimes two jobs (if not more), just to survive. Therefore, we are very stressed and we are on survival mode constantly,” said Gomez.
The Trades Program at Cavanagh House is free to all participants. Upon completion of a series of skills classes, participants will enter a paid apprenticeship in which they will earn money while gaining the experience and training needed to obtain a job in their specific trade.
In order to gain eligibility to enroll in Cavanagh House trade program, participants must be 17 years or older with a low income with 6th grade reading and math skills. Also, participants must expressed commitment to attend all instructional classes and work on skills outside of instructional time, have the ability to reach, bend, stoop, stand for long periods of time and lift up to 20 lbs. (applicable to the upholstery training only), be drug free and sober and finally be able to legally work in the United States.
Gomez continues to master new skills at the Cavanagh House while Learning how to make and to save more money to improve her financial situation to better support her family.
“My main focus right now is to continue learning the art of upholstery and attaining an eye for fashion. I do not know where this journey will take me to; however, I can see myself doing this for a long time,” said Gomez