Teenager sitting in a black sweatshirt holding a skateboard on a slum background urban

Youth Job Training: From Surviving to Thriving

Ernest got the job training he needed through TAP’s Young Adult Life Enhancement (Y.A.L.E.) program.

When the pandemic hit, Ernest found himself homeless and unemployed in a city where he knew no one. He was “just trying to survive,” he says, and that crowded out any goals or plans for the future. Addressing each day’s new challenges took all his time and energy.

Last August, as he walked around Roanoke, Ernest kept seeing the TAP building. Curious, he Googled it, and he called the same day. That’s when he met Kathleen Nettnin, who coordinates job training at TAP for youth experiencing homelessness. She referred him to our Young Adult Life Enhancement (Y.A.L.E.) program. Since then, “everything was on the ups” for him.


Y.A.L.E. prepares court-involved young adults ages 18–24, like Ernest, for self-sufficiency. The program offers free classes and connects youth to job and training opportunities. Participants can complete their high school diploma or GED, gain work and apprenticeship experience, and earn certifications like CNA, ServSafe, and customer service. Y.A.L.E. also provides a weekly stipend of $125 so that participants can focus on learning and growing, not just surviving.

The program readies youth not only for the workforce, but for stability and long-term success as well. Youth who join the program learn job-readiness and life skills and receive one-on-one mentoring. Ernest’s mentors include former Y.A.L.E. coordinator Shantell Dupree and current coordinator Kamyron Meeks. He says talking with them has not only prepared him for his job, it’s helped him see his worth. “Here it’s just genuine love,” he says.

Thanks to the customer service certificate and other skills that he gained through Y.A.L.E., Ernest found a job. Combining his earnings with his Y.A.L.E. stipend enabled him to move from Roanoke Rescue Mission’s emergency shelter to an apartment of his own.


Once Ernest moved into his new apartment, another challenge arose. He hadn’t had time to combat his depression and anxiety while he was simply surviving, and now it hit him hard. Ernest was able to take healthy living and mindfulness classes through Y.A.L.E. He especially enjoyed the mindfulness classes, which he says have improved his mental health and given him a more positive outlook. “Sometimes you have to break down to rebuild,” he says.

Ernest’s new positive outlook has positive changes to back it up. Unlike a year ago, he is now housed and employed. The program also connected him with additional training, and still acts as a support system he can rely on. These days, he’s furthering his education, exploring career options, and recommending Y.A.L.E. to others every chance he gets.

keys hanging out of keyhole on an open door

First-time Homebuyer Q&A

Being a first-time homebuyer comes with a learning curve and purchasing your first home is a big step. It’s normal to have some questions along the way. Our Housing Counseling program has the answers for first-time homebuyers—and can help for free!

The program offers assistance in the form of:

  • A First-time Homebuyers Education Workshop
  • Pre-purchase counseling
  • Mortgage default counseling
  • Refinancing assistance

Check out this Q&A with TAP Housing Counselor Sierra Sallah, who addresses some common concerns among our clients.

I am not sure what my options are when it comes to receiving help with my homeownership needs; Where do I start?

It pays off to ask! Many clients I work with are not aware of their options. They may have already started the home-purchasing process and accepted a payment option, but are unsure of what they have actually agreed to.

A client told me that the greatest benefit of partnering with a housing counselor who has their best interest at heart is that they have extensive pre-existing knowledge and can ask questions that the client might not know to ask.

Do I need to meet any qualifications or be in a specific phase of the home-buying process to participate?

TAP meets you where you are. Clients do not need to meet any particular qualifications or be in a particular phase of the home-purchasing process to qualify for the Housing Counseling program. All of our clients can receive one-on-one counseling.

Do I need to purchase a home within a specific timeframe when participating in the Housing Counseling program?

There is no pressure to adhere to a timeline. My ultimate goal is to help a client complete the home-buying process within 18-24 months, but as life changes, so can timeframes.

I also refer clients to outside resources, such as realtors, financial institutions, mortgage officers, and other local agencies to encourage them to stay on track with their goals.

Does my home need to already be in foreclosure to receive assistance?

Your home does not have to be in foreclosure for you to be eligible to receive delinquency or default counseling. If a client is past due on their mortgage payment, then I will assist them in exploring all avenues to become current and stay current on their payments moving forward.

Interested in learning more?

Click here to learn more about how TAP’s Housing Counseling program can help you reach your homeownership goals, or call (540) 283‑4917. You can also check out our free Housing Counseling Workshop event on Facebook.