Help wanted ads in the Boston Globe. 

(AP Photo/Steven Senne)

The Great Recession created a massive group of people who were -- or still are -- long-term unemployed. In Colorado, about 54,000 people fall in that category, according to the Colorado’s Department of Labor and Employment.

Long-term unemployed means a person has looked for jobs but not found one for more than six months, and earlier this year, Gov. John Hickenlooper told "Colorado Matters" it’s the one problem that keeps him up at night.

"In the suburbs of Denver, in Fort Collins or Colorado Springs or Durango or Grand Junction, you  hear stories of people being out of work for 12 or 18 or 24 months. It is hard on a person, in terms of how you relate to your family, your neighbors, your friends, and how you look in the mirror. You begin to have self-doubts," the governor said.

This year, a national program called Platform to Employment came to Denver to help address the problem. Over a couple months, it helped a small group of Coloradans end their long-term unemployment, first tutoring them on resume writing and interview preparation, and then paying their salaries for the first eight weeks they worked with new employers, a way to encourage the employers to hire the program participants.

The program, run by the Connecticut-based nonprofit The WorkPlace, has been profiled on 60 Minutes and the PBS NewsHour, and has drawn attention from President Obama. Joe Carbone runs Platform to Employment, and he said that while the program has only directly helped 16 Coloradans in its first round in Denver, it's also helping to bring attention to the issue and encouraging local governments to do more to help the long-term unemployed. Platform to Employment worked with the Denver Office of Economic Development on its first round.

Carbone says the small first cohort has helped other people who are long-term unemployed see that they can ultimately get back to work. "It’s a message to them that there is a way you can get back the hope," he says.

But Carbone emphasizes that people have to be realistic: "100 percent of them took a job making less money than they did before they were laid off, but they broke the cycle of unemployment. And by being employed, you’re in an infinitely better situation… for the future. I view what we did in Denver as a total success."

The program worked with Denver's Office of Economic Development this year, and then-acting director Ledy Garcia-Eckstein says working with Carbone helped her office come up with new ways to help the long-term unemployed, and has applied for a federal grant to replicate the Platform to Employment program.

Carbone is planning his own second round of the program in Denver. He says the group has applied for funding, but if that falls through, he plans to raise the necessary funds himself.