VAN BUREN, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Crawford County Adult Education Center is helping people with criminal backgrounds land a job and have a fresh start.

Among offering the community many resources, it works with county judges to offer community service as an alternative way for people to finish their sentencing. Through this work, they’re seeing a growing population of those experiencing homelessness, since many have criminal records keeping them from landing a job.

Second Chance Business Coalition’s research backs this up. It says while companies may be open to hiring people with criminal records, only 5% of hiring managers and 3% of human relations directors say they are actively recruiting them.

Also, if they do get a first interview, Second Chance Business Coalition’s research shows a criminal record alone can make them 50% less likely to get a second interview. It’s a stigma the Adult Education Center’s Autumn Grant wants to help end through the resources provided at their Second Chance Job Fair.

“Give them an interview, find out what the what the laws were that they crossed, how long ago it was, and what they’ve done since then to change their life,” said Grant. “Give them an opportunity, give them a chance, you might find the hardest worker you’ve had.”

For many with criminal backgrounds, Grant said landing a job can help keep them from losing their kids to foster care or becoming homeless, since she said they’re new paychecks will help them pay fines and stay out of jail or afford rent.

“These are our people that we work with that are being drug tested on a regular basis,” said Grant. “They’re turning their lives around, and we want to give them an opportunity, along with some of these employers, so I’m really grateful that they stepped up to that.”

Grant said Wednesday’s Second Chance Job Fair will host 30 employers ready to hire people with felonies or misdemeanors. Some of the employers include Walmart, the Arkansas Department of Transportation and small business owners.

It’ll be at the Crawford County Adult Education Center from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. inside the Resource Center Hub. Lunch will be provided by Arvest Bank.