Albuquerque restaurant owners sign on to hire homeless workers

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — There’s a new approach to Albuquerque’s homelessness issue, and this one includes a paycheck from local businesses.

Heading Home, the state’s largest provider of services for those experiencing homelessness, recently launched its Job Connect program. The idea is to get local businesses on board to hire homeless who want to work. 

El Patron, with two locations in Albuquerque, was the first to sign on.

“It would serve dual purpose, right, in the employment environment that there is right now with trying to find employees it’s been tough for us,” said Nadine Martinez-Daskalos, the owner of El Patron. She and her husband started the business more than a decade ago.

After a few years of pandemic-related challenges, they’re still enduring issues with staffing.

“It’s very important you know that we all step up as a community to help, to start training individuals, and then maybe our workforce will start to get a little more solid and then we are all successful,” said Martinez-Daskalos.

Heading Home leaders will use a discovery process to find out what skill sets workers have and where they would fit best.

“I think it’s an extreme gap in the services that we offer this population,” said Kathy Sotelo, executive director of the Job Connect program within Heading Home. “I think it’s definitely worth taking a risk. For whatever reason there are so many jobs available in let’s say construction, food service. We want to help them discover new skill sets that they may not realize they have.”

Sotelo says the end goal is successful reintegration into society.

“I think that human interaction on a level outside of what they’re used to is critical for success,” said Sotelo. “They’ll be making money, they’ll be making friends, they’ll be having this sense of dignity that they’ll be contributing back to society.”

Heading Home leaders say seven other businesses besides El Patron are showing interest. A majority are in food service but construction and motels offering housekeeping opportunities could also be a good fit.