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From helpless to hopeful in Seattle

It’s quite fitting that Yolanda Cooper loves to read.  That’s because the former Neighborhood House and WorkSource Seattle client, once homeless in Seattle, has a solid career as a security officer for Seattle Public Libraries.  She and 13 of her fellow officers cover all 27 branches each day, and she says there’s definitely never a dull moment.

But only two years ago, she was struggling to find a place to stay, and was desperate to support herself.

A serious relationship drew her to Seattle, where she didn’t know anyone else, and when she and her boyfriend parted ways, she was suddenly in need of help, and found Neighborhood House and job search assistance with the downtown office of WorkSource Seattle.

“I paid regular visits to the Neighborhood House office, and every time I was frustrated, the staff would encourage me and make me laugh,” she says.

After about three months of searching, she was able to get a job and secure a stable, comfortable roof over her head.

Originally from the Buckeye state, Cooper grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has held a series of rewarding vocations, including working with special education students, which she calls “truly a humbling and challenging experience.”  She adds that she still misses those years.

She doesn’t, however, miss the dangers of being a corrections officer in Florida, where she worked for about two years.

“Just knowing that there’s no guarantee that when that gate closes when you enter, that you’ll be alive to leave at the end of the day is really unsettling,” Cooper says.

In fact, her close friend and a former corrections officer, was killed on the job, and the experience traumatized Cooper so much that she resigned soon after.

But because she was certified by the rigorous correction officer standards set forth in Florida, it allowed her to carry her skills to Seattle, where she’s been totally self-sufficient for several years now, and has never looked back.

“Neighborhood House has helped me become a good neighbor,” Yolanda Cooper recently said.

And what advice does the fifty-something-year-old have for others who’ve similarly fallen on hard times?

“Never give up,” she says. “And always pray and know that you have the power to change your condition no matter how bad things may seem.  Be persistent!  You have to plan your work, then work your plan!”