Lily Grays, a 61-year-old grandmother of 5, is looking for a job and a second chance.
Until recently, Lily Grays was homeless — and even after dozens of interviews, she still can’t find steady work. But she’s hoping her past experience and people skills can help her land a gig in office administration or customer service. This is the second episode of “The Search,” a Moneyish original series about finding work.
Finding a job is never easy. But without a permanent address, the search can feel impossible.
That’s what Lileathea Grays, who goes by Lily, has found as she’s hunted for work over the past year. Unemployed since losing her job at an elevator company last June, Grays was also homeless until late last month and living in a shelter near the East River waterfront in Lower Manhattan.
At the shelter, she shared a room with four other women and stored her belongings, including interview clothes, in a cabinet beside her bed.
“My day to day is interview, job search, interview, job search,” she said.
Grays is looking for a job as an administrative assistant or customer service rep, and has experience with office, catering, hospital and call center work and training as a paralegal. She has been on both sides of a resume critique, and said her own resume has been revamped at least 30 times.
She says she hopes to get back to an office environment and the chance to work with people. If she can be part of a company that helps people, even better.
“I just love knowing that I’m doing something,” she said. “I feel useful, and feeling useful is good.”
Her search has been helped by the Coalition for Homeless Services’ First Step Job Training Program and Madison Strategies, both of which offer workshops, networking and career development services. She recently completed an internship with Workforce1, a city staffing and recruitment agency.
Grays also took advantage of a computer lab at the shelter, where she would return each night by a 10 p.m. curfew. (If you miss curfew at the shelter multiple times, you risk losing your bed.)
“I don’t understand why no one’s picked her up as of yet because she is a gem,” said Khadija Shepard, Grays’ caseworker with the New York City Department of Homeless Services, who worked with her for six months. “I know that wherever she applies and whatever she gives herself to, she’s going to be fully committed to it.”
A divorced mother of three and grandmother of five, Grays grew up in the Bronx and had been homeless since last fall, when she moved out of the Harlem apartment of a daughter who had just had a second child. Grays regularly visits for lunch, and said her family gives her financial support.
But Grays, who said she has been homeless twice before and blames a mix of money mismanagement and taking on more expenses than she could afford, looks forward to being able to fully support herself again.
“I’m positive, but it does get discouraging, it does,” she said. “But I just pop right back up and prepare my clothes for the next day and go interviewing, just keep going. The more I go on the better I get at them.”
In June, she achieved one of her goals: a space of her own, when the city placed her in supportive housing, a room with a shared kitchen and bathroom on the Upper West Side. Once she has a job, she must pay 30 percent of her income toward rent. While her only source of income is public assistance, the city’s Human Resources Administration covers the $215 per month cost.
She is still looking for a job.
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