By KATY MACEK
CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (AP) — Two months ago, U.S. Army veteran Terry Treleven was still in the midst of a more-than-a-year-long period that saw him going without a home following a difficult divorce.
Eager to return to the workforce, he recently found himself going through mock interviews at the Chippewa Falls Veterans Housing and Recovery Program, where he had been staying for a month.
“I worked at other jobs, but I couldn’t stick with it,” Treleven said. “It’s just so hard when you don’t have a place at night to lay your head. I no longer consider myself homeless because I’m here, and now it’s time to work.”
Thanks to U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson’s The Joseph Project, Treleven and five other veterans at the Chippewa Falls center are getting that opportunity. The project is meant to connect people with jobs throughout the state, said Scott Bolstad, Wisconsin outreach director for Johnson’s office.
The weeklong classes offer instruction in time and financial management, goal setting, spiritual fitness, conflict resolution and other topics. At the end of the week, participants sit down for an interview with a company. This time around, the interviews were conducted by Sourcecut Industries in Osseo.
This was the 51st Joseph Project Class and the first held in the Chippewa Valley area. After six veterans showed up for the latest session, Bolstad confirmed the project had witnessed a notable first.
“All six stayed the whole time, and this is the first time we’ve had that happen,” Bolstad said, adding the groups range in size, but typically one or two drop out within the first couple of days.
To get ready for their interviews at Sourcecut Industries, the participating veterans took part in mock interviews with various volunteers. Those who stick it out won’t necessarily be guaranteed jobs. But if they aren’t hired, they are likely to find the experience leads to other opportunities.
Damion Gaston, a U.S. Army veteran who has been at the Chippewa Falls veterans center for about two years, said he applied for the project because he figured he could stand to have a “foot in the door.” He’s held temporary jobs but said he is looking for something more permanent.
He said everything he learned at the class has been useful, especially the lessons taught by a Royal Credit Union representative at a class on money management.
“Some were things I had been taught in the Army, but it was a nice refresher, especially the finance class,” Gaston said. “Not many classes I’ve had went into such detail about those things, such as better ways to build credit.”
Bolstad said The Joseph Project is not meant exclusively for veterans. In fact, anyone who is having trouble finding a job can apply to take the classes, which are held a couple of times a month. Most of the time, they take place in Milwaukee. But they are also offered elsewhere in the state.
For veterans like Gaston, The Joseph Project was a welcome reminder of how generous people can be.
“I was in a homeless shelter for a while, and they don’t have that many resources there,” Gaston said. “This program humbled me by how well we have it — like the donations. My entire outfit today was all donated. It shows how many people in the community care about veterans, and that’s touching.”
Treleven said he makes it a point to not take his good fortunes for granted.
“As a veteran, I think every day, ‘I’m getting this opportunity because of what I did 20 years ago,'” Treleven said. “It’s nice to know that it still matters.”