Andre Roberson experienced homelessness from 2018 to mid-2019 and lived at a low-barrier shelter in D.C. Now, due to the training and mentorship he received at the D.C. Sustainability Energy Utility (DCSEU), he is a team lead solar technician and on his way to permanent housing.
“I didn’t know how to feel when it first happened, I was so grateful to have a job,” Roberson said of the help he received from DCSEU. Unemployed after losing his previous job in February 2018, he ran out of unemployment compensation in August 2018. Unable to pay his rent, and his family unable to temporarily house him, Roberson had to stay at the 801 East homeless shelter in Southeast D.C.
“It’s a reality check,” Roberson said. At the shelter, he had to hide his shoes under his pillow every night, as he and other residents slept in fear of their shoes being stolen. He moved into his sister’s house in the summer of 2020 and still lives there, searching for permanent housing.
He has reason for optimism, however, because he now works for Greenscape Environmental Services, a local green energy company that installs solar panels in neighborhoods across D.C. He was promoted to team lead within six months of working there, and he now manages seven to eight people in a team.
Roberson was connected to Greenscape through DCSEU’s Workforce Development program, a five-month externship program that trains D.C. residents to work in the green industry. Rather than an internship, the “externship” invites local D.C. companies like Greenscape, GRID Alternatives and other green energy companies to train and mentor graduates. DCSEU itself pays the externs, to compensate mentors for the time they spend training each individual.