Unemployed find work with help from state’s DTA

David Eisenstadter, Special to the Reporter
Aug. 14, 2014

Dorchester resident and new DTA staff member Tyisha Curenton hugs Boston Economic Development Chief John Barros as DTA Commissioner Stacey Monahan looks on with Curenton's certificate of recognition Monday at the State House.

For 15 months, Tyisha Curenton of Dorchester remained unemployed. Now, she not only has a job, but that job entails helping people find work. Curenton was one of the 212 clients honored Monday morning at the State House as part of the Department of Transitional Assistance Client Recognition Ceremony.

The first client to speak Monday, Curenton told those gathered in the room that she was helped by the department, but also through her own personal drive to succeed.

“Greater things are coming,” she said. “Envision yourself doing great things and they will become a reality.”

Stacey Monahan, commissioner of the Department of Transitional Assistance, said the event was important to show clients what they have accomplished.

“A lot of people couldn’t be here today because they are at their jobs, and that is a good problem to have,” Monahan said to the crowd gathered in the Great Hall of the State House.

But while she said it was important to acknowledge success, she wanted people to continue their hard work.

“Get up tomorrow and continue thinking ‘what’s next?’” she said.

The Department of Transitional Assistance administers the SNAP food assistance program, job assistance, emergency shelter, cash assistance, and a domestic violence program. In all, the department assists one in seven Massachusetts residents.

Monday’s event focused on the clients of two of its regional offices in Newmarket Square and Dudley Square.

Between the two offices, they have offered food assistance assisted in nearly 57,000 cases, emergency aid in more than 4,000 cases, and transitional aid to about 5,600 families with dependent children.

They have 190 staff at the two offices, and now Curenton is among them.
Curenton, a recently hired social worker with the Department of Transitional Assistance, said she repeatedly attended the department’s workshops and was quick to offer department representatives her resume as well.

A social worker for 15 years, Curenton fell on hard times after getting laid off from a job where she said her employers had unrealistic expectations. She was replaced with someone who was less experienced and right out of college, she said.

A cancer survivor and a survivor of sexual abuse as a child, Curenton said she learned to get over shyness and be an advocate for herself.
“As a social worker, I tell people you should always be plugging, especially if you’re doing a job you don’t like,” Curenton said. “You have to do whatever you can do to better yourself.”

She also said her faith was important. A member of Grace Church of All Nations at 451 Washington St., she said she thanked God for surrounding her with people who prayed for her.

Abel Perez also spoke about his experiences Monday, saying he and his wife and young son moved to Roxbury from Florida.

“We had great difficulty looking for work, especially my wife, who had limited English skills,” Perez said.

Perez heard about the DTA office in Dudley through family connections, and received cash, food, and health care assistance, but most importantly, work advice.

After an interview on Dec. 30, 2013, Perez was hired as a worker at Staples. Within three months, he was moved up to a supervisor role.
“On top of that, my wife is now also employed full time,” Perez said, adding that the DTA had directed her to English classes at a nearby YMCA.

As Perez spoke, his two-year-old son Alexander watched from the front row.

Sharie Cole said she would soon graduate from Roxbury Community College and has a nearly 4.0 GPA. Attending the school was possible through the DTA’s transitional assistance program, which she joined after getting laid off from an engineering job and running into difficulty finding another job.

Staff members awarded certificates to clients who had made achievements in finding work or in furthering their education. As they approached the stage, many brought their children up with them.

John Barros, Economic Development Chief for Boston, was also in attendance and said he came from the Dudley neighborhood.

“Boston is a city that consistently achieves at the highest levels, but we will not be satisfied until all our residents have a chance for a better life for them and their families,” Barros told the crowd.

Representative Byron Rushing, Democratic Majority Whip from the South End, attended the event and told clients and staff members that he learned a valuable lesson about poverty through his own life experience.

When his mother was on welfare, she found ways to increase her income and to succeed.

“People who are poor are poor for only one reason – they don’t have money,” Rushing said. “Don’t let anyone tell you different.”