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Homeless to hired: El Paso vet finds work in the Borderland

By Crystal Price
EL PASO, Texas - Jamie Lee is an ordinary 50-year-old father raising his three daughters in northeast El Paso.

On this Veterans Day, he is looking back on the 10 years he served in the Navy.

"I was 18," Lee said. "I worked on the F-14 Tomcat.

But 21 years after the Navy, Lee said, it has been no easy road finding work.

"I was moving to Arizona for a different job, we hit some bad weather, and I was stranded up in Albuquerque," Lee said.

Lee and his family were homeless for some time before the Department of Veterans Affairs helped them find a place to live.

However, for the last three months, he has been without a job.

"Veterans are a different breed of are very disciplined for the most part," Lee said. "You know what you're supposed to do. But when you come out in the real world, youve got to do it all yourself."

Recently, Lee was introduced to Workforce Solutions.

"They have the resources where you can get in there and find better jobs," Lee said. "They've already gone out there and done that legwork for us."

Within only a matter of weeks, Lee was able to land a job at a security office in El Paso.

"I was very thankful," Lee said. "I think I'll be able to make a good career with this here."

Workforce Solutions is strengthening its services to better assist veterans with landing interviews.

"One of the things we're finding is when they come in, they talk about their experience but from the military perspective," said Lorenzo Reyes, Executive Director for Workforce Soluations. "When we try to translate those resumes into civilian workforce - that's been a challenge."

The agency is preparing for this week's annual Red, White, and You job fair from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the El Paso County Coliseum.

More than one hundred employers will be at the job fair to talk with veterans about finding employment.

Reyes said the agency is taking it a step further this year as they are looking at veterans' skills and bringing in employers based on their areas of interest.

In addition, the agency will also be working in conjunction with a community college and other schools to be able to provide them with credit needed to enter the civilian workforce.

"It's a group of people that come and they have a lot of talent and skills, but sometimes they find it difficult to be able to translate those skills into the civilian workforce," Reyes said. "We need to do a better job in being able to connect them to jobs that are in the civilian workforce."

The Red, White, and You job fair will be Thursday, Nov. 14 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the El Paso County Coliseum.

The nationwide unemployment rate for veterans hovers around 6 percent and it has reached 10 percent for post 9/11 veterans.

Currently more than 47,000 veterans reside in El Paso. Workforce Solutions said a "significant" number of them are still without work.

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