Gasym Mirzoyev’s life changed before he realized it.

A migrant from Russia, Gasym had nowhere to turn after being laid off from a local manufacturer where he served for more than eight years. As a temporary employee, he had earned the same low wage the entire time he was employed.

With that setback, Gasym lost more than his job – he lost hope. He soon found himself homeless, with few possessions beyond his defective moped. He went from sleeping in a bed to sleeping on the streets.

This is when Gasym met Goodwill Career Coach Sonya Brown.

Sonya helped Gasym enroll in Goodwill’s Soft Skills Academy (SSA), which allowed him to study and practice six concepts that significantly impact the ability to find and maintain employment: attitude, conflict resolution, dependability, safety, self-presentation and team building. Despite the language barrier, he never missed a class. He was an active participant and saw an improvement in his English-speaking skills.

A manufacturing company Sonya was in contact with offered to hire Gasym as a temporary employee shortly after he earned a Work Ready Certificate through SSA.

Within weeks of employment, Sonya tracked down Gasym sleeping outside a retail building. She said she was so taken aback, she personally provided him shelter in between his shifts. That was, until they found affordable housing, which came a few weeks later.

“It’s been a journey with him, but it was worth it, every second of it,” said Sonya. “… I think, by far, he’s the greatest success story I’ve had since I’ve been at Goodwill. It just means a lot to me. I love what we do.”

Through Goodwill’s Last Mile to Work program, he acquired a bicycle, too, perfect for his new commute – just within walking distance of work. Gasym made his first deposit himself, and with Goodwill’s assistance, he was able to pay his first month’s rent and turn the utilities on.

Gasym purchased a bed, television, additional furniture and hygiene items, among other things. The Bowling Green Goodwill career service staff and Sonya also donated and delivered items themselves.

“After coming into the office, my whole life changed in three weeks,” Gasym said. “Every problem was fixed. I went from living outside to living in an apartment. I have a bank account, and I maintain my own rent. I owe all of this to Career Coach Sonya Brown and Goodwill Career Services Care Funding.”

And that was just the start.

Shortly after Gasym was settled, he was made aware his green card had expired. Sonya worked with a local church and helped him travel to Nashville to complete the renewal process, which included having a $600 fee waived. On March 13, she helped him buy his first phone, so they can stay in touch.

Gasym contacts frequently, Sonya said, through an uncertain time. He called on Monday with concerns about the novel coronavirus pandemic and the amount of work he was getting.

“I think he’s a little scared, like everyone else,” Sonya said, “because he depends on his paychecks to pay his bills. He’s just now becoming self-sufficient again. But I’ve reassured him that I will help him get signed up for unemployment.”

For now, Gasym is still employed, which could change any day, Sonya said. It’s a harsh reality that her clients – and many others – must face. Career coaches like Sonya, though, have maintained contact and offered assistance when possible.

In addition to helping her clients file for unemployment, Sonya has a list of additional resources prepared, such as food banks and entities that assist with bill payment, if jobs are lost.

She even offers to take Gasym to the store. She took him to Walmart so he could purchase a battery for his moped.

“Everyone that comes in is shocked,” Sonya said, “like, ’How’s Goodwill do all this?’ It just depends on their circumstances and what barriers they may have. Every person is different. Gasym, he was one that needed a lot, a lot of help. But like I said, it was well worth it. He’s where he needs to be now.”