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A bus load of homeless people from Pinellas Hope participated in a pilot program on Feb. 14 where they are learning to find jobs through the Internet.

The new project at WorkNet Pinellas One-Stop Center at 4140 49th St. is supervised by Palm Harbor-based Geographic Solutions, creator of computer-based job seeking programs.

The company works closely with the Florida Department of Labor.

The idea to bring homeless people into the loop for the first time came when Solutions owners Paul and Margot Toomey last month volunteered their time at Pinellas Hope by providing 225 meals.

The facility is located on 128th Avenue off 49th Street in unincorporated Pinellas County and provides housing and various social programs to help people break the chain of homelessness and become solid citizens with homes and jobs.

"We saw the challenges of obtaining jobs at Pinellas Hope," Toomey said.

Toomey's project was launched at WorkNet which was not involved, but offered office space and equipment. With about 20 computer stations set up, technicians explained how to use various job-seeking programs on the Internet.

"We want to make computers more user friendly, especially for those who have no background with the Internet," Toomey said.

Tom Bailey, a 45-year-old homeless man fresh from Ohio State Penitentiary where he served time for a cocaine-related crime, said he hopes to find work.

"Pinellas Hope is doing everything it can to broaden the horizons of its residents," Bailey said. "I've been in Florida seven weeks and can’t find a job. Maybe this program will help."

Bailey said many street people come to Florida because they believe jobs are plentiful when just the opposite is true. The present economic and housing slump changed all that.

"I've been on the streets for about five years, including my jail time, and worked at many jobs," Bailey said. "Now it's very hard to find work."

Bailey said he has worked as a printer, in construction and as a laborer. He said his goal is to find work so he can afford a place to live. He needs a job without stress that is physically easy, like working in a hospital or restaurant.

"I'm getting up there in years and can't do the kind of work I'm accustomed to doing," Bailey said.

Originally published by Thomas Michalski for Tampa Bay Newspapers

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