JFS Perspectives

Monday, July 06, 2020

Cynthia Williams: From Homeless to Self-Sufficient

Cynthia Williams: From Homeless to Self-Sufficient

Cynthia Williams, 59, first learned about JFS five years ago when she was in a transitional program through Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and needed food. She accessed the food pantry monthly with her two sons, Jamaal and Sebastian, and her grandchildren received food and school supplies through our Lunchbox Express program. She was struggling to find employment at her age. “I didn’t know how to compete or stand out and didn’t have the tools to create a proper résumé,” Cynthia explains.

Then she learned about a workshop series JFS was offering led by Dress for Success. She immediately enrolled and learned vital skills to prepare for interviews, such as the importance of verbal communication, body language, how to dress, and to arrive early so you’re not out of breath and flustered. In addition to the class, she worked individually with Heather Seiden, employment program coordinator, to perfect her résumé and cover letter and find the right types of jobs for which she could apply. During this time, her son, Jamaal, watched his mother struggle to have a place to live and put food on the table. He was determined to keep his kids out of the system and successfully started his own business, 5280 AutoZone. 

Thanks to Heather’s efforts and connections she made during the Dress for Success workshop, Cynthia was introduced to a hiring manager in the apartment leasing industry and got hired as a leasing consultant in 2016! She thrived at that job until she suffered from lymphoma last year and needed to leave. She and her husband recently started a commercial cleaning business called Purified Cleaning Service, and feels confident they can be successful, thanks to much of what she learned from JFS.

Not only has JFS helped Cynthia, her sons, and her grandkids, but Cynthia told her daughter-in-law, Jan about the leasing company she learned about through Dress for Success. Jan was then hired in a temporary training program with the company and became an assistant manager. “I am so proud of her,” beams Cynthia. “Her success would not have been possible without the connections I made in Heather’s class.”

Cynthia describes herself as a humanitarian and is constantly seeking ways to help others, particularly people who are struggling with homelessness and don’t know where to turn for help. She started a small nonprofit called Ask Me First, where she provides resources about community organizations, and helps people fill out forms for benefits and navigate systems. “I think about all the places that helped me and I want to give back by connecting others with these resources. I’m just grateful I know about the organizations and don’t personally need their help anymore,” says Cynthia.

She adds, “My family and I graduated to stability and self-sufficiency with the support we received from JFS. We feel safe about our survival because of what we learned from these services.”

Photo: Cynthia, center, surrounded by her family.

META DESCRIPTION: When Cynthia Williams first came to JFS five years ago, she was homeless and hungry. Today she has her own business and is thriving, thanks to help she received through a variety of JFS programs.