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Local program seeks to help homeless women find stable jobs, housing

Julia Cochrin speaks to the five graduating women and their families during a Nov. 17 RENEW ceremony. // M. Hazlip

By Mike Hazlip—
A graduation ceremony for five women was held in Citrus Heights last month, as part of a privately funded program aimed at giving women experiencing homelessness an opportunity to begin a career in residential property management.

The five graduates took part in the Real Estate Networking Education and Work Program (RENEW), which held its graduation at Creekside Estates on Greenback Lane in Citrus Heights on Nov. 17. Representatives in property management were in attendance along with friends and family of the graduates.

California law requires a manager or other employee to live on-site for communities with 16 or more units, so the graduates not only have qualifications for a job, but may also have an opportunity for housing at the same time.

Graduates earn their certification by passing a 100 question written exam with a score of 80 percent or higher, says Julia Cochrin, executive director of the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) Sacramento Valley Chapter.

“We’re providing career and housing for women who need a career and housing,” Cochrin said. “I mean, it’s just such a great marriage.”

Each graduate of the five-week program leaves with a the Chromebook they are given at the start of the program, a professional head-shot for their resume, and tickets to an industry networking event. The women learn aspects of residential property management such as business etiquette, maintenance, fair housing, and communication skills.

RENEW partners with other agencies such as IREM and Women’s Empowerment of Sacramento to attract candidates. The women first go through a basic skills course with Women’s Empowerment before moving on to get their residential property accreditation, Cochrin said.

“We want to make sure that they’re ready for that training and we want them set up for success,” Cochrin said. “We’re not looking to have anybody fail. Know. So we want to make sure we have people that are really ready for that five weeks of training.”

Graduate Aeronna Wallace told The Sentinel she studied each night while holding down a full-time job. Wallace said she scored a 95 on the test and feels prepared for property management after what she described as a “stressful” five-week course.

“I learned a lot of stuff that I didn’t even know that was with the field,” Wallace said. “I learned a lot. I learned a lot. And I think it’s going to help me in my everyday.”

In addition to educational materials, the program provides students with some meals while they attend classes. Vice President for IREM Sacramento Valley Foundation Paula Nicholas said the meals help students who are struggling to have enough to feed their families.

“[W]e didn’t realize that we had two students that were physically living in their cars during our very first session until after the session,” Nicholas said, calling it heartbreaking. She also said during lunches, organizers would notice some students only eating small portions “so they could take some home.”

RENEW is in its ninth session, according to Cochrin, and students who don’t pass the exam are eligible to retake the course. Job placement is not a guarantee of the program, but it’s enough to give students a chance in the industry.

“Five weeks is long enough to give them a an advantage of somebody that’s never worked in the industry before,” Cochrin said, adding that property management companies often hire employees from other customer service sectors who may not have property management experience. “So this does give them a little boost above somebody who has no experience at all.”

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