By Brent Morris

By Brent Morris

While the pandemic has taken a lot of things from us, it’s also opened a lot of opportunity for things we haven’t necessarily tried before.

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With his 32-year background in Probation and Parole, Brent Morris, now an Employment Specialist for Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph, is more than familiar working with vulnerable and at-risk populations. In this interview, Morris provides some insight into the nuanced challenges clients are facing in the time of pandemic and how Catholic Charities is seeking to help.

  Q: Brent, tell me a little bit about your current role at Catholic Charities and how your work has changed since the pandemic hit in March.

A: The biggest thing I do is work one-on-one with clients to try and help them find work. Our main services, pre-pandemic, include a three-hour employment workshop followed by a resumé workshop. We also help them one-on-one look for work in our computer lab. Since the pandemic, we’ve had to revise that since we can’t have face-to-face meetings like we did before.

The shut down in March was unfortunate and devastating for many of our clients. Early spring is normally when hiring picks up, especially for our clients who rely on the seasonal job openings. While that has been a big blow to our client population, there have been a few job sectors that have done well and gone up in demand, like grocery stores, retail, and other “essential” businesses.

  Q: It sounds like there is a lot of opportunity for growth and creativity. How have you expanded the breadth of your services to meet the need?

A: Well, we’ve had to deal with various factors and provide different services like food, utility, and rent assistance since our clients are now facing a variety of new challenges in addition to employment.

We’ve also been utilizing outside resources. For example, we were able to successfully host a workshop online with a local halfway house and, most recently, we started doing Financial Literacy classes on Facebook Live. We’ve seen a lot of success and are excited by the fact that this is able to reach more people than we would traditionally have been able to. We’re also reaching a different demographic of people since the pandemic has also hit those outside of our traditional clientele.

  Q: What are some of the other obstacles our clients are facing in this time?

A: There are several things. First, we’ve noticed it isn’t just that clients are unable to work — it’s also the low-grade depression they’re experiencing. A good percentage of people we work with are estranged from their families and don’t have the emotional or financial support to back them. We always try to supply that encouragement and enthusiasm when people come in.

Another one of the biggest challenges we’ve seen is the lack of technology available to our clients. In the past, our clients could use our computer lab to take typing tests, work on their resumes, and job hunt. Many clients use the library, but since the libraries and our computer lab have been closed, many clients have no way to even look for employment.

  Q: What is the biggest thing people can take away from our Employment Services in this time?

A: The most important thing for our clients is knowing what is available to them and what their options are, especially with free access to our Financial Literacy classes and other COVID-related programs. While the pandemic has taken a lot of things from us, it’s also opened a lot of opportunity for things we haven’t necessarily tried before.

For more information on our Employment Services, contact Brent at or (816) 659-8232.


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