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Becky Bright, left, instructor with Jobs for Life, interviews a student as Mary Curd, right, prepares for a job interview Wednesday at Room in the Inn.

All the women who come to Chattanooga Room in the Inn are homeless, and more than 95 percent of them don't have jobs.

Room in the Inn Executive Director Erin Creal and Hope for the Inner City officials want to help those women be more self-sufficient through the nonprofit's Jobs for Life program.

Some of them don't even know how to dress for a job interview, Creal said.

The shelter started a partnership this year in which Jobs for Life instructor Betsy Bright teaches women how to interview, dress and create a resume.

"We're giving them skills so they can find a job," said Bright.

To learn more

For more information about the Kentucky Derby fundraiser, call Room in the Inn at 624-6144.

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Executive director Erin Creal, Chris Stapleton and Casey Curd carry items downstairs Wednesday at Room in the Inn.

Room in the Inn, a shelter for victims of domestic violence, serves about 150 women and children a year. Families may live in the facility for up to nine months.

All the women who complete the eight-week Jobs for Life program come out knowing their assets and how to market themselves, Bright said.

Having a job allows women to build more stable lives. Many of the program's participants are considered to be in the category of "hardest to serve," with a wide range of problems including homelessness, substance abuse and criminal records, according to the Jobs for Life website.

Mary Curd, 40, is participating in the program. She said she has looked for steady work off and on for 10 years. Lack of employment led to her being a homeless single mom.

The biggest barrier for employment is not her skill, she said. She's worked as a housekeeper and cashier, but she says people don't hire her because of her small stature. She stands 4 feet, 8 inches tall.

She came to the Jobs for Life program dressed in a dark blazer for an interview at a local thrift store.

"Getting a job means I show my daughter how to be independent," she said.

Bright helped Curd shorten her resume to one page and changed some of the wording to highlight her employment history.

Room in the Inn is among several local agencies partnering with Jobs for Life.

Chattanooga Housing Authority Police Chief Felix Vess said the program was successful when implemented near the College Hill Courts housing development.

"It's taken people on the street and given them something to look forward to," Vess said. "It helps people get their GED, it keeps you focused and lets you know there is a way out."

Hope For the Inner City, which houses the Jobs for Life program, is also the city's partner in its Violence Reduction Initiative to reduce gang-involved shootings and killings.

Records showed that Hope for the Inner City held a class for 40 gang members to learn job skills in its Father to Fatherless program. In December, more than 22 percent of the gang members found part time or full-time employment, the organization says.

Jobs for Life is one of several programs offered at Room in the Inn. The nonprofit group will host a Kentucky Derby viewing party fundraiser called "Tell Me Something Derby!" scheduled from 3:30 to 8 p.m. May 2 at the Waterhouse Pavilion and Miller Plaza.

The Derby party is Room in the Inn's only fundraiser. It funds an eighth of the nonprofit's operating budget. Organizers want to raise at least $50,000.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6431.

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