Story by Esmy Jimenez
“Martin G. Johanson wanted everyone to feel like a millionaire whether they had a nickel in their pocket or nothing at all,” Executive Director Jim Miller tells me.
In his quest to make this vision a reality, Seattle’s Millionair Club Charity (MCC) was formed in 1921. A local businessman, Johanson watched as his city reeled from the economic devastation of WWI leaving many unemployed. While some charities were providing hot meals, Johanson believed the key to breaking the cycle and providing people with the agency to lead a dignified life was the privilege of a well earned paycheck.
“That’s why we’re a job-first organization,” Miller adds. While the organization couples job opportunities with housing support, the Millionair Club is known for having provided over 800 workers this year to over 1000 businesses who hired people who’ve experienced homelessness or are currently experiencing homelessness. For many that’s the first time someone’s offered them a tangible solution.
Currently the organization focuses on providing people with Food Handler’s Cards and MAST (WA State’s Mandatory Alcohol Server Training) licensing. Many people often lack the $10-$15 cost of a certification and that alone can be the barrier that keeps them from accessing a job. What’s more is that even if the money was available and prioritized, an online course means access to a computer is a necessity.
Herein lies the beauty of The Millionair Club. It’s a thoughtfully assessed system that foresees solutions to barriers that may be holding their clients back. It’s that kind of foresight that prompted the organization to develop a small, eight-station computer lab devoted to job support. But they didn’t stop there.
As the need grew and the positive effects rippled out, the social entreprise knew they had to keep up with the demand from their clients. With support from the City of Seattle Technology Matching Fund through a $21,800 grant, The Millionair Club developed their small computer lab into a Workforce Development site equipped with 32 workstations. Now folks can come in to the same place where they can shower, do laundry, store their belongings, eat a hot meal, pass their food handler’s certification test, and even get work clothes for employment the very same day.
“We love it when people say ‘I came in for lunch, I came out with a job!’” says Christine Rylko, Director of Communications at The Millionair Club. What’s more is that the organization also provides transportation to and from work and a completely free vision clinic for folks who need glasses (much needed for job readiness!) Coupled with housing opportunities, free showers and laundry, the place is a one-stop shop for people to get back on their feet.
This year alone this intricate system has helped 154 people transition to full time permanent jobs.
With over 4,500 people without a home identified during this year’s One Night Count and 6,000 more in King County shelters, that kind of program is revolutionary and indeed much-needed.
“I want to pass that on to anyone out there who needs help to work. The MCC is where it’s at for good clothing and work. In fact, I haven’t heard of any organization out there that’s like them. Everyone should come to the MCC for help because it’s #1,” says Sam, a client who experienced both the pains of homelessness and the joy of finding his way back to a secure home with the help of The Millionair Club.
With stories like this, the organization’s name is no misnomer. They are championing the way for Seattle’s homeless population to feel like millionaires themselves.
In 2016 the City of Seattle awarded 10 community organizations a total of $320,000 in Technology Matching Funds (TMF). This funding will assist more than 2,500 residents in historically underserved or underrepresented communities who lack the necessary technology access and essential digital skills to thrive in the 21st century.