Calvin B., 67, lives with his wife in 63115 and works in 63103, two of the top five ZIP codes in St. Louis City for COVID-19 infection. He likes to play scrabble, work in his garden, and hopes to get back to playing handball soon.
Calvin is a specialist at Employment Connection, a career training center for those with limited opportunities, such as people who are homeless, veterans, recovering substance abusers, and ex-offenders.
In his role, Calvin recruits clients to participate in the nonprofit’s programs and works with employers and unions to find them employment. He started working from home mid-March and is on the computer about six-and-a-half hours per day.
In the first couple of weeks, he concentrated on looking for employers. “All I did was grind and grind and grind,” Calvin said, “I got a lot of potential employers, but nothing solid.” As time went on, the job opportunities became scarcer: some of the businesses were closed, others were not interested, and he suspects some were protecting the jobs of those who had been laid off or furloughed.
Since he’s been home, Calvin has had people come to his front door to get help applying for unemployment benefits. “People in the neighborhood would say, ‘Hey man, my cousin needs help with his application.” Many of his clients are looking for non-technical positions and do not have a computer at home. The libraries where they would go to file unemployment claims were closed.
Employment Connection has a tradition of being a walk-in, hands-on agency, but it is working on virtual classes. Calvin is ready to take on any new challenges.
As part of his work, Calvin has to visit various employers in the area. He noticed how people initially followed the coronavirus recommendations, but he’s also seen a lot of people not wearing masks.
At a local Home Depot, he said over two-thirds of the customers—and employees—weren’t wearing masks. At another store, the employee who monitored incoming customers told Calvin she wasn’t wearing her mask because, “She couldn’t breathe, and it fogged up her glasses.”
At a local convenience store, he noted three of the four employees were not wearing masks. The fourth, a cashier, had it around her neck. After she asked him to stay back six feet from another customer, Calvin asked about the mask policy, and she pulled her mask up.
Calvin has also heard, after a reopening date was announced, people say they weren’t wearing a mask because, “They’re opening up tomorrow, man. It’s over with tomorrow.”
Statistics and Skills
Calvin feels he is saturated with information about COVID-19. He says he wears a mask, practices social distancing, and doesn’t worry about the rest. He also feels the high numbers of COVID cases, like the crime statistics, reflect a small area within the 63115 ZIP code and that most of the Penrose Park neighborhood is being cautious.
One of the new skills he’s learned is creating masks using bras. He says he’s starting a company called Bra Bros. Facemask Co. Their motto? “One cup can save your life.”