You can’t get a job if you don’t have socks. It’s that simple, said Mary Butschky, Suited for Success coordinator at Phoenix Housing Network. And it’s a little more complicated. Phoenix Housing Network provides emergency and transitional shelter for families who’ve become homeless. It also hooks them into the job training they need to become independent again. The Suited for Success clothing bank offers them the professional clothing they’ll need for job interviews – and jobs. And if you want a job, Butschky said, you’d better look the part right down to the ground, which is where the socks get complicated. Anklets and athletic socks are too casual for an interview. Her clients, men and women, need socks that go with dress trousers. And she’s nearly out of them. “Now I’m down to one pair of women’s trouser socks,” she said. For the men, she has just a dozen, all new. “Certain things I only use brand new,” she said. Underwear is on the list, and socks. If she were a cartwheel-flipping woman, she’d do a few every time a donor stops by with a bag of socks suitable for office, food service or retail work. “Nothing feels good like putting on a brand new pair of socks,” she said. That’s the feeling her clients need when they head into a job interview, or their new job. Tuesday, Sharee was in a sock panic. At 20, Sharee works at a restaurant and, with her son and her mom, is living in the Phoenix emergency shelter program. That means that, every week, they pick up all they have and move from one host church or school to another. It is not a laundry-friendly lifestyle, though Phoenix does provide washers and dryers at its family center at 7050 S. ‘G’ St. “I had a busy week at work, and I was rotating through my five pairs of socks with no time to come here to do laundry,” Sharee said. “I’m scrabbling for socks everywhere.”
She doesn’t want her last name used because she doesn’t want to have to explain to people how it is that she can have a job but can’t afford a place to live. So Tuesday morning there she was, asking Butschky if she had a pair of socks to spare. Butschky had one and saved her day and her feet. “No one likes to wear shoes without socks,” Sharee said. “If you’re working all day on your feet, I would say that socks are really, really important. It’s cold. You don’t want that breeze on your ankles.” You don’t want to lose your job, either. Her restaurant demands that she wear socks on the job. Thanks to Phoenix, Sharee is headed for the Manufacturing Academy to learn the skills for a living-wage job. She hopes her family can get grounded in an apartment by the first of the year. “This program helps you get on your feet,” she said. And we can help it put the right socks on those feet.