North Star: Giving Clevelanders Who paid Their Debt a Second Chance

By Abby Bova

 As a branch off of Oriana House, Inc., the North Star center works to help those living in Cuyahoga County who have been involved in the criminal justice system.  While North Star’s programs are geared toward those whom have been involved directly with the criminal justice system, North Star’s services are additionally available to the friends and family of those whom have been involved in the criminal justice system. One of the best parts of the program is the enthusiastic Marcus Bell who is knowledgeable of all the services.

North Star is not a shelter or a drop in center, the best way to describe it is a one stop help center.  North Star’s services include not only employment help, but also GED classes, family healing, computer training, vouchers for state IDs, life skill classes, free health care clinics and so much more.  Needless to say North Star’s calendar, which is sent out monthly, is always full.  In order to access the majority of North Star’s services one must become a member.  Fortunately, the only requirements to become a member are that the client is 18 or older and is there voluntarily.  Each year roughly 1,600 people become North Star members and continue to return year after year.  North Star’s staff of transition specialists help each client receive individualized help, whether the services needed are in house or through another agency.

North Star’s employment program is a core service path, meaning it is geared towards those who have had previous job experience and simply need a refresher in certain areas.  This program consists of an orientation, so that clients know what they are getting themselves into, followed by a brief assessment to determine the state of the individual client and discover any barriers.  The client is then given a check list of vital documents and other materials needed to successfully secure a job.  If the client is missing any of these items, North Star’s staff of transition specialists will help said client in acquiring whatever it is they need.  The final step is job club.  Each client is assigned to a job specialist who will assist them in acquiring a job.  These job specialists are constantly in contact with employers around the area to find the best fit for each client.  For those with little to no job experience, Oriana House has paired up with Towards Employment, which offers an intensive service path.

 The most important aspect of North Star’s programing is their staff.  The welcoming staff has created a “judge-free” atmosphere, which draws clients in from all over the area.  North Star understands that many people living on the street would rather stay on the street than seek help and be judged.  They went so far as to place it in their grant that all employees must treat everyone with kindness and respect at all times.  It is a miracle that North Star is able to keep their multitudes of programs running smoothly.  However, the 66,000 people who have found assistance through North Star since 2010 are a true testament to a job well done.

  Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle September 2015 in Cleveland Ohio All Rights Reserved