Senator Klein, Borough President Diaz, and Bronx Chamber of Commerce expand Bronx H.I.R.E. program to help domestic violence survivors gain skills and obtain employment

(l-r) Bronx Chamber of Commerce chairman Joe Kelleher, Bronx Chamber of Commerce executive board member Geri Sciortino, Maria Martinez, Senator Jeff Klein, Violence Intervention Program executive director Cecila Gaston, Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., and Glenn Bullock of BronxWorks at the announcement of the expansion of the Bronx H.I.R.E. program to help domestic violence survivors.
Photo by Alexander Belisle

Elected officials, women’s advocates, and business leaders gathered recently to announce the expansion of a job training program to specifically help domestic violence survivors.

Back in September, Senator Jeff Klein obtained a $200,000 grant for the Bronx Chamber of Commerce to kick off the Bronx H.I.R.E. (Help Identify Real Employment) program. It creates a database of Bronxites looking for jobs and match individuals with positions that are available. If the job seeker needs further certification or training, Bronx H.I.R.E. can pay for it, said Klein.

Klein, Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and chamber executives announced on Wednesday, October 1 that the initiative is being expanded further with a Domestic Violence Survivors Job Readiness and Internship Program. The program is designed to break the economic neediness that oftentimes force domestically abused women to stay in bad relationships.

“Women who are victims of domestic violence too often return to their abusers because they lack the financial freedom to leave,” said Klein. “The Bronx H.I.R.E. Survivors Program will empower women and put the control back in their hands.”

The spin-off program launched with 10 women on Thursday, October 16. The women were selected by the non-profit Violence Intervention Program, Inc., in partnership with Diaz’s office.

“Helping domestic violence survivors reach financial independence is an important step toward avoiding the common occurrence of returning to the abusive relationship because of their financial need,” said Diaz. “Through the Bronx H.I.R.E. Domestic Violence Survivor Program, these women will gain confidence to fine tune their skills and enter the workforce to move towards safe and enriching lives.”

The women will first complete a six-week job training program to hone computer and communications skills. Then in January, they should begin eight to 12-week internships. They will then receive help with placement in jobs.

The announcement of the new initiative coincided with the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and was held at the chamber headquarters at the Hutchinson Metro Center. Joseph Kelleher, Bronx Chamber chairman and the president of the Metro Center, announced that the buildings there will be lit in purple all month to create awareness about the issue once kept in the shadows of American life.

“We are pleased we can be here today with the senator and the Bronx borough president who are really behind this cause,” he said, adding “the important thing is to create an awareness that this is a real issue that needs to be addressed.”

Celcilia Gaston, VIP executive director, explained how the new program can help women who have been abused by their partners.

Isolation of abuse victims is a frequent factor, and she has seen cases where men keep women from earning a living by not letting them get jobs or creating situations that get them dismissed from positions. In addition, she has seen women who have had credit cards unknowingly opened in their name by their partner, and survivors being denied access to the family finances.

Borough President Diaz, said during the press conference, which Gaston confirmed, that domestic violence is a learned and taught behavior. Diaz called on men to “step up their game.”

Among the participating organizations offering internships in the program are Crown Trophy, Teddy Nissan, Westchester Square Business Improvement District, Community Board 11, and the elected officials’ offices. To learn more about Bronx H.I.R.E., visit www.bronx‌chamb‌er.org.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 742–3393. E-mail him at procc‌hio@c‌ngloc‌al.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.
Borough President Diaz (r) speaks during the recent press conference as Senator Jeff Klein (front row, c) and Cecilia Gaston (l), executive director of the Violence Intervention Program, and other attendees listen attentively.
Photo by Alexander Belisle

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