Ronald Humphrey, 33, and O'Dale Williams, 19, are CETA employes at the Washington Area Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse(WACADA).
Humphrey, a former drug user with three years of college and business school training, said he stumbled onto his $8,000-a-year CETA job as a telephone drug counselor following a routine trip to the unemployment for a year.
"I didn't know anything about CETA," said Humphrey. "I had applied for another job and the personnel director at the unemployment office told me about CETA. Luckily, the other job was taken and they sent me here."
In his 16 months at WACADA, Humphrey has worked the night shifts, 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. one month and midnight to 8:30 a.m. the next. During an average month, he said, WACADA receives more than 400 calls from persons with alcohol or drug-related problems. Some clients also visit the center for personal counseling.
Humphrey said he has attended drug counseling seminars and college courses paid for by WACADA. He said he feels his confidence and communication skills have improved vastly as a result of working at the agency. Now, with the training over, he's ready for a more challenging job.
Yet, despite his recent training and seven years of prior counseling experience, come Sept.30 he will be unemployed, Humphrey said. On that date his CETA contract ends and he has not yet found another job with any of the 100 agencies to which he has applied.
He could try to float from one CETA program to another, he said. But he doesn't want to do that.
"Right now is the bad part," he said dryly. "I knew in the beginning it would only last a year, but now it's kind of frightening. If a person wasn't strong-minded I'd be afraid for them to go through CETA to make bills, pay rent, get a car and then have it snatched away."
Williams, a recent high school graduate, said she faces the same fate as Humphrey, but sooner. She is a clerk-typist and counselor trainee in a 20-week CETA program that pays $79.50 a week. In addition to her office duties, she too is taking WACADA-sponsored college courses to learn how to become a telephone drug counselor. But her CETA contract ends this month.
"They (WACADA) have opened up a whole new world for me," said Williams. "I've met Mayor Washington, doctors and lawyers, and I wish there was some way to stay here.
"In a way, WACADA has helped me more that CETA. I didn't even know I was on CETA until my supervisor (at WACADA) told me. I had been here a month!"
Williams said she came into the program after hearing a radio announcement about the Manpower job bank. She went to Manpower to apply for a job, she said, and they sent her to the unemployment office. At unemployment, Williams said, a counselor gave her some forms to fill out for a program he said was too complicated to explain. The program was CETA. Five months later, William said she was called for an interview about a job.
"CETA doesn't know us," she said. "In orientation they told us (the trainees) they would check up on us after the contract runs out they would get us a job."
The two employes said they have mixed feelings of gratitude and confusion about CETA. They said the program is not well promoted, trainees receive little follow-up assistance and many of the agencies with CETA trainees cannot afford to employ them without being subsidized.
While they said they were grateful that CETA saved them from unemployment lines, provided a regular paycheck and excellent training through WACADA, they spoke bitterly of dead-end jobs, frugal wages and training that raised employment expectations about jobs that have not materialized.
"I used CETA as a stepping stone to move up and I'm going backward," said Humphrey. "I was under the impression from CETA that if I successfully completed this year they would help me find a permanent job. I didn't think they would take you out of the umemployment market and then after a year just throw you right back."