But the failure rate may be higher. John Gruder, owner of Phoenix Die Mold, has hired about 10 Focus:Hope trainees and has let three go. Their training had some "shortcomings," he said. Still he is generally pleased with the quality of Focus:Hope graduates--particularly their strong work ethic.
While the center is drawing kudos, even its biggest supporters note that the program's impact is limited.
For instance, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), a key backer, acknowledged that Focus:Hope may be difficult to copy because it takes years to develop the trust and relationships that make such efforts succeed. Stern, who helped Los Angeles County apply for federal support for a program modeled on Focus:Hope, said it remains to be seen if the Detroit program can wean itself from federal money.
"The question is: Can they sustain it long term and without federal aid?" he said. "That chapter has yet to be written."
Cunningham, however, has no doubts about Focus:Hope's sustainability. The priest has little patience for those who urge caution and criticizes past job training programs, saying billions of dollars have been wasted on efforts that brought no jobs--or offered only dead-end work.