- Associated Press - Thursday, July 16, 2015

HOBART, Ind. (AP) - Byron Allen had been living in a motel near Gary’s Miller neighborhood until his employer didn’t pay him on time, and he got kicked out on the street.

He drove up and down Broadway and finally found a homeless shelter, which didn’t have room, so he hunkered down in his car in the parking lot, trying to get some sleep.

A good Samaritan told him it wasn’t the best idea, and he’d be safer if he parked outside the police station downtown. An officer in the lobby shrugged and told him it was no problem, and so he settled in to life on the streets. He washed up in restaurants until his pay situation got straightened out about a week and a half later.

Allen is now unemployed but studying to become a paralegal at an online university and lining up job interviews.

“Now that I’m somewhat stable in my domicile, I have straight As,” he said.

He got some unexpected help after he dropped in at Fifth Third Bank’s Financial Empowerment Mobile eBus last month when it visited the WorkOne office in Gary, where Allen was looking for jobs. The bank’s eBus offers financial counseling, credit coaching, job-search guidance and other free services to underserved populations.

Allen won a professional styling and job interview wardrobe makeover in a contest. Fifth Third Bank, NextJob and the fashion and style company, WhatRUWearing, partnered to get him new professional attire to aid him in his job search.

They brought him to Macy’s department store in Southlake Mall in Hobart where a professional stylist picked out clothes that would make him look his best in a professional setting.

Allen, a jeans-wearing musician who’s played in local bar bands, considers himself fashion-impaired and appreciated guidance on how to dress for job interviews.

“I’m kind of a fashion neophyte,” he said.

“When I was in bands, I dressed kind of garishly. But you don’t want to dress garishly for an interview, especially if you’re going into the legal field. I’m going from Jimi Hendrix to kind of more conservative. I’m a former hippie, and I can’t walk into a corporate environment in torn jeans and a tie-dyed shirt.”

WhatRUWearing owner Farissa Knox advised him to pick out clothing that fit well.

“You’re impressing them with the fit of your clothes, not your style,” she told Allen.

“You’re showing them that you’re professional. It matters how everything fits, right down to your T-shirt. If you had a T-shirt that was a little baggy, it wouldn’t show the fit of your shirt. Your shirt would be ripply, and your jacket wouldn’t be smooth. It’s about knowing your size and finding clothes in your size that fit. It doesn’t matter how much anything costs. You can find a shirt for $5.”

Allen was optimistic about his job prospects after trying on several shirts and jackets at the Macy’s dressing room, and leaving with a new outfit. His long-term ambitions extend beyond just landing a paralegal job. His dream is to someday open a sustainable green hotel that would offer employment to people who have been in his position.

“When you’re staying on the streets, it’s not only stressful but it’s dangerous,” he said.

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SOURCE: The (Munster) Times, http://bit.ly/1JdS9SX

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Information from: The Times, http://www.thetimesonline.com

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