A recent study by the Atlanta Continuum of Care found that nearly 3,200 people experience homelessness in the city of Atlanta, but for the nonprofit workforce organization First Step Staffing, it’s more than transitioning people out of homelessness; it’s about placing them into permanent, reliable pathways to economic prosperity.
Founded in 2007, First Step Staffing currently places approximately 1,100 (570 in Atlanta) homeless men and women, including veterans and those with criminal backgrounds, in contract job assignments at customer locations daily. Through partnering with organizations like United Way, Goodwill, and MUST Ministries, the agency is able to source workers and transition them into permanent members of the workforce.
First Step Staffing received a $2.8 million loan from Atlanta Emerging Markets, Inc. (AEMI)’s Advantage Loan Fund in December 2015, which allowed the non-profit to acquire a larger for-profit staffing company and expand their services and impact. They have since expanded to Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Nashville, Orlando and New Jersey. The organization also received a $1 million loan from AEMI in 2019.
Greg Block, founder and visionary of First Step Staffing, pioneered this model of purchasing for-profit staffing agencies and converting them to nonprofits under the First Step Staffing umbrella. Block, 54, passed away on August 14, 2020 due to cancer. Atlanta City Council proclaimed October 16 as “Greg Block Day” to commemorate the Atlanta leader. Amelia Nickerson assumed the role of CEO earlier this year.
“First Step sees income as a critical component on the path out of homelessness,” said Amelia Nickerson, CEO of First Step Staffing. “Greg believed that those experiencing homelessness were not hopeless, but rather heroes who just needed a hand up to succeed. We are grateful for partnerships with groups like AEMI which have helped First Step become the largest nonprofit staffing agency in the country.”
The staffing agency currently employs over 3,500 clients in Atlanta and over 8,000 clients across all six locations annually, with intentions of growing to 4,000 and 12,000 employed respectively over the next few years.
"Greg’s everlasting leadership and impact both locally and nationally reinforced the importance of investing in agencies like First Step Staffing,” said Stephen McRae, President of AEMI. “Their unique model and approach to combating homelessness and encouraging economic mobility aligns with AEMI’s guiding principles. We are honored to support Greg’s vision in serving others and lifting up others in our community.”
In addition to providing career opportunities, First Step Staffing also offers coaching, transportation, housing placement, uniforms, mental health referrals, financial literacy, connection to training programs. Their “Second Step” program currently includes digital literacy, basic literacy, construction training, CDL and forklift certifications
First Step Staffing’s corporate headquarters is located at 236 Auburn Avenue.