For 55-year-old Nancy Waterman, giving up was not an option. From divorce to a stint in jail to living in her car, Waterman knew that to put her life back on track she would have to ask for help. She wanted to be able to put a roof over her head and provide herself with basic needs like food and clothing.
The need for a hot meal led her to Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont’s door last year where she found more than a plate; she found hope from Mark Greer, a NCWorks Career Center advisor who makes weekly visits to Goodwill’s Opportunity Campus.
“Mark stayed in communication with me, letting me know what he needed from me. I was always prepared to know what I had to do, when I had to be here. I felt like he might have even really cared, and it made me try a little harder. When you think somebody cares it makes you feel good,” Waterman said.
Hearing her words, Greer noted that it’s all about giving someone hope.
“There is value in hope. When you give people hope, miracles happen,” he said.
Waterman moved to Charlotte in 1985 with her husband and five children in tow. She was a stay-at-home mom who pursued two college degrees while her children were in school and worked as a freelance graphic designer. In 2005, her world began to change starting with a divorce, and then the death of her 11-year-old daughter.
“Everything dramatically changed due to those circumstances, and my husband was the main contributor. I couldn’t make the house payment, car payment, all these things,” she explained. “That’s when my homelessness began. I have spent more than five years homeless since 2005.”
That same year, Waterman was convicted of a felony for writing bad checks which put a stain on her background check.
“Because of the constant disqualifier, I wasn’t entitled to fair and safe housing or jobs, because everyone runs a background check. This put me in a position of weakness that brought me to such a point that I didn’t really see how it was going to change,” she added.
As she worked on changing her situation, Waterman kept hearing from multiple trucking companies that a criminal background didn’t matter.
“When I found out this information, I decided to work as hard as I could, cooperating with all the things I had to do to get this very voucher I hold to be able to complete my schooling in order to gain reasonable employment,” she said.
With Greer’s help, Waterman qualified for a training scholarship and was able to take the assessments needed to enroll in Charlotte Truck Driving School’s program to receive her commercial driver’s license (CDL).
“There are literally hundreds of jobs that offer very good wages to entry-level truck drivers. With these wages and these opportunities, I will finally be able to acquire basic needs like a home, food, basically those items that I have had to go without or less of during the last 10 years,” she tearfully stated.
Greer said that some days the customers come in to see the possibilities, but they leave taking advantage of the opportunities.
Nancy Waterman’s story personifies Charlotte Works’ Careers4All initiative. Despite the steep obstacles faced by some of Charlotte’s most vulnerable residents, economic mobility can be afforded to them. In Waterman’s case, deploying one of our career advisors to a trusted community partner (Goodwill) connected her with our customized training opportunities and helped shape her career pathway. She’s gained an occupation that has added more than 1,500 jobs since 2014 and is expected to increase by nearly 1,200 jobs over the next seven years, according to the labor market database JobsEQ. The average annual salary for full-time truck drivers in Mecklenburg County is $44,900, which is almost two times above living wage for an individual.
Waterman summed up her experience with words of gratitude resulting from her training.
“It provides opportunities for people with circumstances just like me, and lots of other people [who] have similar situations that I meet every day. We make mistakes. We shouldn’t have them be a constant disqualifier until the day we die. I really couldn’t say enough of how this very moment has changed my life and how I know that from now on, I will be able to see a future that is bright and full of hope all because of a job.”