BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s recruitment season at the Center for Urban Families.

Former graduates of their program are hitting the streets of Baltimore, trying to spread the word on Wednesday.

They’re handing out pamphlets, stopping squeegee kids on sidewalks, leaving brochures on doors and while they know there are a lot of programs offering people help to find jobs, they say they’re program is different for one reason.

Former graduates Shirome Owens and Thaiquan Shell said before they started in the program, they were seeking a source of family and love.

That’s what the Center for Urban Families promises to provide.

“We have the family structure built in because we want people to feel loved,” Owens said.

The Center has become such an integral part of his life even after graduating from the program, he added.

When he had children, he said the Center threw him a baby shower. After his mother died, the Center helped him with coping with his grief.

For Shell, he considers the Center his second home.

“I didn’t grow up with a father so I didn’t really have guidance,” Shell said. The Center helped with so much for than just a job.

And it all started with a flier like the ones he passes out now.

“It changed my life, I was on my last straw at home and I went out front one day and this flier was on the door and I said ‘Ma, I need one more chance.'”

The Center was created 20 years ago and has helped secure over four thousand jobs.

The STRIVE program both Thaiquan and Shirome participated in is a three-week workshop that tries to empower participants with the skills to get a job.

But Thaiquan said it helped him understand more about himself.

Shirome said most people don’t get that opportunity growing up in Baltimore.

“Our first job off the porch is selling drugs, that’s just how it is,” he told WJZ Wednesday. “Baltimore is drug-infested so, you know, I had nobody to look up to that was saying you could do something else.”

But Jessica Thorne, who is unemployed, found it hard to believe.

“What are the requirements,” she asked Shirome.

He told her there are none. “Just be between the ages of eighteen and sixty-two.”

She was interested.

“Maybe if we had some more opportunities things would be different now. They wouldn’t be as bad as it is now,” Thorne said.

To learn more about STRIVE and other programs available at the Center for Urban Families, visit their website.

Annie Rose Ramos

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