The smell of eggs and turkey bacon infuses the air of a dining area already brimming with noisy chitchat. Mia smiles as she says, “I crack eggs every morning. I want everyone to smell what’s cooking!” In a more serious tone, she shares, “Some of [our guests] have not had a hot meal in years.” Once the plates are on the tables, the room goes quiet, and Mia and her coworkers feel accomplished as everyone enjoys their first meal of the day.
Preparing breakfast, providing laundry services, and conducting room checks are a few of the many ways that Mia ensures that National Health Foundation’s (NHF’s) guests have a safe, hospitable stay at the organization’s recuperative care site in Glendale. As a Guest Services Associate, she is teaching everyday skills and provides a safe space to people who are recalibrating their lives after experiencing chronic homelessness or being recently discharged from area hospitals without a safe place to turn.
“Some of [our guests] have not had a hot meal in years.”
Mia Rogers, National Health Foundation Guest Services Associate
At the same time, she is building rapport with the people she serves while learning about their individual journeys experiencing homelessness, mental illness, or other challenges. “I make sure I get to know them on a personal level,” Mia shares. “You’re learning these people’s stories. And that is, for these past two years, the best thing that could have happened to me. It has made me a better person.”
Encouraging everyone around her is a top priority for Mia. In addition to caring for NHF guests, she works alongside volunteers with disabilities from Tierra del Sol Foundation, providing mentorship and guidance that will help them build the skills they need to pursue employment in the community. One volunteer’s mother shares, “Mia was an inspiration from the moment I met her. Her energy is next level, and her smile lit up the room. Her humbleness and gratitude are unlike anyone I have ever met. It is so clear she loves her job and it shows in the way she worked with my son. Mia was able to make a connection with Jonny and, despite him having a disability, he was greeted with a natural and pure acceptance. I couldn’t have asked for a better work environment for my son.”
“Mia was an inspiration from the moment I met her.”
Mia didn’t always know that she wanted to work in human services. Despite being steadily employed beginning at age 14, she struggled to find a job and a sense of direction after high school. Not long after graduation, Mia found herself in a heated situation that resulted in a physical altercation and three months of incarceration. “I was a kid when I got into trouble. I thought I was grown… I was never a fighter, so I thought the situation wasn’t that serious.”
But reality sunk in when probation requirements and her record quickly changed the way she was able to live her life. Once released, she wondered, “How am I supposed to work full-time as a felon and go to anger management classes two times a week?”
Housing instability was a looming threat, and just as Mia’s probation came to a close, she had to vacate her apartment due to unsafe infrastructure issues. “I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have a car, I didn’t have anything.”
In late 2019, Mia started utilizing Chrysalis’ services and was more driven than ever to secure work. “Once I got off of probation, I was so happy. I was like, I can finally get a job – where do I start?” She completed our job-readiness classes, received individualized support from an Employment Specialist, and engaged in one-on-one resume writing and practice interview sessions. It wasn’t long before she was hired for a warehouse position through Chrysalis Staffing, a division of our employment social enterprise that connects hundreds of Southern California employers to job candidates each year.
“I knew I was going to get a job. Then the pandemic happened, and they shut everything down,”
Mia Rogers, National Health Foundation Guest Services Associate
Seeking the opportunity to grow professionally and increase her wages, Mia stayed in contact with her case manager. Then, in early 2020, she abruptly lost her job along with millions of Californians. “The pandemic happened, and they shut everything down,” Mia reflects.
Faced with starting her job search again, Mia didn’t miss a beat. She engaged in Chrysalis’ virtual services and began working with her Employment Specialist on securing job leads, completing an application for unemployment insurance, and was provided gift cards to help with the cost of groceries.
In 2020, Chrysalis distributed $975,000 in emergency relief to clients.
Mia was quickly referred by Chrysalis Staffing to NHF to work with Project Roomkey – a program made possible by the efforts of the State of California, its counties, and other municipalities aimed at creating temporary housing solutions for our most vulnerable community members during the pandemic. At first, she thought, “They want me to go work at a hotel? What am I getting myself into? But [the staff] all became a family, and we provided for the clients.”
Having a steady paycheck opened doors for Mia that were closed before. She celebrated purchasing a car and taking her first road trip. She shares, “I started providing for myself. It’s the best feeling yet.” At the same time, she discovered her passion for serving her fellow community members.
While working with Project Roomkey through Chrysalis, Mia’s work ethic and tenacity stood out to leadership at NHF, and the organization made an offer to her to come on as a full-time, permanent employee. Two years later, Mia is still with NHF and providing vital care and support to individuals who need it most. In addition to being a part of NHF’s Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Council, Mia looks forward to returning to school and continuing to advance her career. “When I got hired through Chrysalis, I found purpose in life. I have a steady job, I have a car, I have a roof over my head. I won!”
Chrysalis is honored to have supported and worked with Mia during her search for employment. Her persistence in the face of challenges – including job loss as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – is a testament to the resilience of thousands of Chrysalis clients. We look forward to honoring her with the John Dillon Award at Chrysalis’ 20th Anniversary Butterfly Ball on October 1, 2022. Learn more about this year’s event at ChangeLives.org/Butterfly.