Survive underemployment by asking for help

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- Even for those with a steady job, just one emergency could mean you don't know where your next paycheck is coming from.

That is exactly what happened to Teresa Blanco, who had to choose between work and caring for her sick father.

She tried to get by on her own but in the end, she realized she needed help.

“There was a lot of places I didn’t know about," Blanco said.

She lost her job as a home health aide to care for her sick father and says the secret to getting back in the workforce is asking for help.

“It's out there. You've just got to look,” she said. “Word-of-mouth, you know. Friends, they helped me, too."

She turned to A New Leaf and its affordable housing campus at La Mesita, where she learned that sometimes you have to take a step back to get ahead.

“I never thought I would go back into fast food,” Blanco said. “I thought I was set in the medical field.”

A fast-food job works with her schedule but at the same time, Blanco says it is critical to keep up the skills and credentials you already have.

“They did help me with the job and how to get my clearance back through my background and my fingerprint card. That was something that was missing at the time," she said.

Having those credentials means Blanco can now go back into home care when she is able, but she would not have known how to do that if she hadn't asked.

3TV's Brandon Lee asked Torrie Taj, the deputy CEO of A New Leaf, to list the three things families living paycheck to paycheck need to have.

"One, safe and affordable housing; two, affordable transportaton; three, safe and affordable child care," she said.

With clean affordable housing units, a headstart program on site, and the light rail right out front, La Mesita fills those needs for people seeking help.

“We want to be able to have one campus where we can wrap the services around the individuals and the familes right here." Taj said.

She says a key part of the nonprofit's mission is helping people navigate the job market.

“We partner with Maricopa County Workforce Connections and so we're really tapping into their systems. Another nonprofit that we partner with is Goodwill,“ she said.

Those are services Taj says are available at other locations as well. In today's job market, she encourages people to use them.
Her best tip for job seekers? Take a very close look at what you really want to do.

“We really look at their individual goals and work with them to achieve those," she said.

Doing that helped Blanco see where she needs to be now but also prepare for where she wants to go.

“It is one step closer to where I want to be. That is the way I feel right now, “ she said.