Melvin, 57, a Jersey City resident, is very excited about his new job. "There's opportunities for advancement," he told several people at dinner at St. Francis Parish two weeks ago. But there was a problem, he added: a 2 p.m.-to-midnight shift would be available the next day, and he wanted to work it, but he wasn't sure the homeless shelter where he was staying would let him back in when he returned. Melvin, 57, a Jersey City resident, is very excited about his new job. "There's opportunities for advancement," he told several people at dinner at St. Francis Parish two weeks ago. But there was a problem, he added: a 2 p.m.-to-midnight shift would be available the next day, and he wanted to work it, but he wasn't sure the homeless shelter where he was staying would let him back in when he returned. Shelters have very strict hours about when people can enter, and they often close their doors after dinner. "See?" said Sister Maria Cordis, shaking her head. "Can you imagine the heaviness of that rejection? It seems like nobody is listening." Cordis, a teacher at Sacred Heart Academy on Washington Street in Hoboken, has been running a program for homeless people called "Step-by-Step" for five years. The program runs for 22 straight Fridays, from October through April, and teaches homeless people computer skills, job skills, literacy and GED preparation. It also gives them a hot meal on a Friday night. Each year, Cordis goes to three of the area's homeless shelters (St. Lucy's for women in Jersey City, the Hoboken Clergy Coalition in Hoboken and St. John's Emergency Center for men in Union City) to speak about the program, and normally, about 20 people begin participating. Usually, that number dwindles to a handful. Substance abuse claims some of the participants, while others find it difficult to stick to a program and still endure the rigors of life on the street. But the program has also turned some people's lives around. "I have a really positive outlook for the future," said Myra, who is in her 30s and lives in the Hoboken shelter, last week. Myra started a job in the fashion industry recently and hopes to find an apartment soon. She said Step-by-Step is "very constructive. It gives me hope and I feel like I'm doing the right thing." Melvin, who says he became homeless because of a substance abuse problem, has been studying for the GED and taking a computer course through Step-by-Step. He said he has asked the supervisors at his new temp job if they need technical support. Step-by-Step, celebrating its fifth year, has big plans and wants interested residents to be part of them. They are holding their first gala dinner dance in honor of the program's anniversary May 20. Before that, they're taking some of their participants to a job fair in Newark. The group also has been making a videotape about the program and about what it's like to be homeless. They also are seeking a grant to hire a "community representative" to visit community groups and schools to talk about the program and educate people about the homeless. But they have a bigger challenge ahead. The federal department of Housing and Urban Development has given them approximately $1 million to convert a building in Jersey City into a transitional house for seven homeless people. Sister Cordis believes it could help provide stability for Step-by-Step participants and get them back on their feet. They found a suitable building, but the Jersey City Zoning Board voted their project down in October after neighbors of the building complained. Step-by-Step is presently appealing the decision. "They need a transitional setting," Cordis said of her charges. "We're still being denied this last link to get people back on their feet."