Pierce County nonprofit aims to solve homelessness by putting people to work

A Pierce County non-profit has a simple plan to solve homelessness-- they're putting people to work.

PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. — Peer through a chain link fence and you’ll spot the mattress where Tré Didier and Elise Ficalora lived for four months.

“It’s crazy to see how tiny it is because our whole life was right here,” said Ficalora.

The couple stayed in a two-person tent in Tacoma while struggling to get on their feet.

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After years of using drugs, they were determined to get clean once they found out they had a baby on the way.

“I pretty much was at the worst point in my addiction and thought there was no way I was ever going to get sober again. And I decided that, I just gave up on my life pretty much, and I was blessed with getting pregnant because that gave me a reason to turn it around,” said Ficalora.

Didier heard about Valeo Vocation, a new organization that helped people find jobs. Little did he know, it’d change his family’s life.

“It’s awesome. It’s a godsend,” he said.

The Pierce County nonprofit helps people experiencing homelessness find and hold onto full-time employment by breaking down the barriers many of them face.

Mitchell Austin is the Chief Program Officer at Valeo Vocation. “Where am I going to wash my face and hand,s so I can clean up for work? Where am I going to eat? I literally have had people sleeping outside our doorstep in front of the gate, so they can make sure they’re up for work on time because they can’t charge their phone,” said Austin.

On top of connecting people with local companies, Valeo Vocation drives people to work, teaches them money management and, ultimately, helps them find a home.

“We’ve paid out almost $700,000 in wages. We’ve ended homelessness for over 40 families. Stop and think about that for a second,” said Austin. “That number could be close to 80, 90 people that were living in a car, or they were living in a shelter. Now, they’re housed.”

Which is what happened to Didier, Ficalora and their new son, Cash.

“I want to provide for him everything I didn’t have,” said Didier.

Five days before having their baby, the couple got off the streets and moved into an apartment in Tacoma.

Thanks to the connections at Valeo, Didier is working 40 hours a week at a manufacturing company. His goal is to become an electrician.

Ficalora gets to stay home and take care of their new baby boy.

“Life is so much better when you can be proud of yourself and when you’re sober,” she said.

The young family said this step is the start of a brand new chapter of their lives.

“There’s nothing that can stop me, you know, as long as I stay focused and don’t let my demons get the best of me. I’ll be able to always push forward in life and have a great future,” said Didier.

For more information about Valeo Vocation, visit the organization’s website.