I Am Project HOME | Alexis Pugh
This story originally appeared in our winter edition of News from HOME.
Alexis Pugh likes to think big. The program manager of Project HOME’s Employment Services, Alexis comes to the work with a varied background in business, ranging from restaurant management (including owning and operating a lunch truck on the Temple campus) to mortgages and real estate, which took her from her hometown of Philadelphia to Seattle. “I was the consummate sales person,” she says.
But the real-estate bust brought her back to Philadelphia, and a time of life transition. While doing part-time summer work helping with a work-readiness program for youth, she discovered a passion. “I loved developing people and rebuilding their lives and tapping their skills. I just wondered, how I could do it on a full-time basis.” Alexis eventually found work in the nonprofit sector, using workforce development skills for different populations, including youth, ex-offenders, and veterans. Her journey led her to Project HOME in 2012.
Since joining the staff, Alexis has used her skills and the extensive network of business contacts she built over the years – as well as Project HOME’s already existing network – to push the Employment Services program to new possibilities. Working with creative and committed staff, and building on a certainty of our residents’ capabilities, the program exceeded expectations, finding competitive marketplace employment for 53 persons in the first year.
“The best thing about this job,” Alexis says, “is witnessing the experience of the residents – seeing them grow, make transitions, and build self-confidence. It’s exciting and deeply gratifying to know that I am part of that process for them.” She has seen many residents obtain good jobs, with income sufficient to move out on their own.
One of the biggest challenges, she says, is to convince potential employers to “throw away the blinders. I want them to look past issues of homelessness, poverty, and disability. This isn’t a population that is throw away or lost. There are some unique gems with great qualities who can really help build your business.”
Alexis’s department is taking on a particularly daunting challenge in the coming year: working with business partners to find competitive marketplace employment for persons with severe mental-health issues.
Alexis knows the economy is struggling, but she still thinks big. She wants to expand the number of partners in the private market. She wants to challenge companies and large institutions like corporations and universities to commit to large numbers of hires at a real living wage. She wants to see more formerly homeless men and women proudly moving into their own homes with a solid income. She wants her work to have a real effect on the poverty level.
When you see Alexis’s energy and compassion, you can’t help but think big, too.