2015 Homeless Workforce Conference

“Moving Beyond Barriers and Back to Work”

June 15-16, 2015
Richmond Memorial Auditorium, 403 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond, CA


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How do we truly help the homeless and others who are hard to employ move beyond their barriers to employment and get back to work? How do we help them sustain their employment until they no longer need our help?

Saffron Strand’s 6th Annual Homeless Workforce Conference provided specialized employment services training for professionals and others assisting the homeless, hard-to-employ, and long-term unemployed.

This Conference provided unique continuing education in the fields of employment, health care, and housing services for everyone who works with vulnerable people trying to re-enter the workforce.

Conference Flyer here!

Complete Conference Program here!

Evening of Diversity Program here!

Plenary sessions, workshops, and other activities provided education, training, and networking to empower Conference participants to help clients and consumers overcome barriers, gain skills, and begin to build careers. Our 2-day curriculum presented:

  • Monday plenary with leading national and Bay Area authorities focused on strategy, policy, and programming to get the homeless back to work
  • Tuesday plenary with the focus on young people — overcoming the employment barriers confronting homeless, runaway, and foster care youth
  • Expert workshops both days with professional training on specialized tools, proven models, and useful examples
  • Luncheon Roundtable Discussions on workforce issues
  • Advocacy Luncheon with the 2015 Jesse Curtis Awards for Reducing Homelessness
  • Evening of Diversity Reception with relaxed and entertaining professional networking opportunities

Monday Morning, June 15: Beyond Barriers and Back to Work 

Tom Butt_lo res“Welcome to Richmond” – Mayor Tom Butt (City of Richmond, Richmond, CA). An architect by training and profession, Mayor Butt leads one of California’s most diverse and dynamic cities with the experience of 20 years on the Richmond City Council, as former Vice Mayor, and as a long-time Richmond resident and local business owner. A strong supporter of Saffron Strand, Mayor Butt strives to help all Richmond residents achieve a better quality of life and make Richmond a livable, healthy, and sustainable community of strong neighborhoods.

Gayle McLaughlin_City Council 2015“Welcome to the Homeless Workforce Conference” — City Council Member Gayle McLaughlin (City of Richmond, Richmond, CA). “We do not look away from homelessness,” former Mayor Gayle McLaughlin has said many times. “We do not turn away from our fellow citizens…. Rather, we acknowledge and respect their valuable human potential.” She encouraged Saffron Strand from the beginning in 2009 and served three years as Conference Co-Chair. City Council Member McLaughlin embraces the Saffron Strand vision and continues to advocate for Richmond’s extraordinary civic leadership through the Homeless Workforce Conference.

Dr. Nunez_lo-resKeynote: “The Path Out of Homelessness Is More Than Housing” — Ralph da Costa Nunez, PhD (President and CEO, Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness and Homes for the Homeless, New York, NY).

Dr. Nunez has over 25 years’ experience working on behalf of homeless families at the city and state levels of government and in the non-profit sector. He believes that homelessness is a multifaceted issue, requiring integrated services in education, employment, housing, and other areas to help homeless families achieve independence and self-sufficiency. He edits the Journal of Children & Poverty, blogs at The Huffington Post, and is the author of several books, including The Poor Among Us: A History of Poverty and Homelessness in New York City and A Shelter Is Not a Home… Or Is It?

Jeff Olivet“Nothing Can Be Changed Until It Is Faced”Jeff Olivet (CEO, Center for Social Innovation, Boston, MA). People of color — particularly African Americans — experience homelessness at dramatically higher rates than whites and their homelessness lasts longer. These staggering realities are compounded by discrimination in housing and jobs as well as mass incarceration — “the New Jim Crow” — which few communities acknowledge or address. Mr. Olivet explores the deep connections between racism and homelessness and what individuals and communities can do.

Nick Apostoleris “Current Topics in Health Care for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness” — Nicholas Apostoleris, PhD (Interim Division Chief, University of Massachusetts Family Medicine; Clinic Director, HealthAlliance Fitchburg Family Practice, Fitchburg, MA; and, President, National Health Care for the Homeless Council, Nashville, TN). The homeless often require specialized health care, which also offers an opportunity to focus on employment and its benefits to overall health and well-being.


Mojdeh Mehdizadeh 1“Higher Education for High-Barrier Students” — Mojdeh Mehdizadeh, MA (President, Contra Costa College, San Pablo, CA). In today’s dynamic labor market, employers are looking for workers with technical skills and educational achievement beyond high school or the GED. With education and training in community colleges, the homeless and others who are hard to employ can achieve these jobs and sustain their employment. However, these “high-barrier” students face multiple challenges. Nonetheless, with the proper help they can successfully complete college, which opens the door to new lives and careers.

Tuesday Morning, June 16: Youth Track

Jael Myrick_web 2015“Welcome to the Conference Youth Track” — Vice Mayor Jael Myrick (City of Richmond, Richmond, CA). Vice Mayor Myrick has been involved in the planning and implementation of Saffron Strand’s Annual Homeless Workforce Conference since the first Conference in 2010. A former Chair of Saffron Strand, in addition to his role in Richmond city government, he is Field Representative of the Office of California Assembly Member Nancy Skinner. Since 2013, he has led the Tuesday plenary focus on engaging homeless and at-risk youth, preparing them through education and training, and getting them into the workforce in jobs that pave the way to careers.

Larry Robbin 1Keynote: “Appreciate the Impact of Your Work: Look at the Rest of the Iceberg!” — Larry Robbin (Executive Director, Robbin and Associates, Oakland, CA). Burnout is a common occupational hazard for those who work to improve the lives and futures of homeless and at-risk youth. The frustrations of trying to help young people overcome the anti-youth bias of employers, along with other employment barriers, take their toll. Also, funding sources typically count only how many youths got jobs, without looking at other profound outcomes resulting from our programs. This is like counting the tips of icebergs, while ignoring the enormous, supportive presence below.

Nick Loret de Mola lo-res“Strengthening Services to At-Risk Youth” — Nick Loret de Mola (Legislative Analyst and Program Manager, California Workforce Association, Sacramento, CA). Growing up in South Sacramento, Loret de Mola’s background includes watching friends become homeless, couch surfing, and sleeping in his car while trying to find his way into “the world of work.” He describes what success looks like, where homeless and disconnected youths build lasting skills and careers. He dives into the new federal and state focus on the workforce system, which increases mandatory spending on out-of-school youth and is a great opportunity for advocates that work on behalf of disconnected and homeless youth to step forward and work on a partnership.

Matt Martin web photo“Social Advocates for Youth: Being There for Youth When They Need It Most” — Matt Martin (Executive Director, Social Advocates for Youth, Santa Rosa, CA). Mr. Martin provides an overview of SAY’s multitude of programs for vulnerable youth. He relates how these programs fit together to provide seamless help. He details two programs that have special importance in getting youth started on the right track in the job market: YouthLink Employment and Education Services and the new SAY Dream Center.

Anne Wunderli_webAnne Wunderli (Vice President for Operations, Pine Street Inn, Boston, MA). Pine Street Inn serves more than 1,200 homeless people per day in the Boston area. The non-profit’s IMPACT Employment Services is starting an innovative new program to move youth beyond existing transitional employment positions into career track jobs. This model involves credential completion and career advancement programming, which are necessary to overcome technology skills barriers in dynamic job markets.


Through workshops at Saffron Strand’s 6th Annual Homeless Workforce Conference, professionals in health care, housing, and employment services learned to help their peers and colleagues in other disciplines to increase the employability and long-term, sustainable, career-oriented employment of their homeless and at-risk patients, clients, and consumers.

These workshops provided specialized training in the developing field of employment-supportive services for vulnerable populations, including single parents with dependent children, at-risk youth, veterans, and the formerly incarcerated.

Workshops on Monday, June 15 focused on the most serious barriers to employment and solutions for vulnerable persons, particularly the homeless and those at risk of homelessness. The Tuesday, June 16 workshops followed our youth track plenary, also focusing on employment barriers and solutions.

Monday Workshop Period 1

1:15 – 2:45 p.m.

“Be the Change: A Community Dialogue on Racism and Homelessness” — Jeff Olivet (Center for Social Innovation, Needham, MA). Building on the information and insights shared in the plenary session, Jeff leads an inclusive, participatory dialogue to examine the realities of racism and homelessness across the Bay Area. The workshop not only offers participants a venue to explore what is broken, but also focuses on what is working and what we can do better. Participants leave energized and equipped with ideas for making positive change in their programs, neighborhoods, and cities.

“Career Technical Education: Knowledge and Skills for a New Tomorrow” — María D. Escobar, DEd and Kelly Schein, MDiv (Contra Costa College, San Pablo, CA). Today’s employers increasingly prefer job candidates who can verify their knowledge and skills with credentials. Contra Costa College (CCC) offers short-term Career Technical Education (CTE) certificate programs that are designed to prepare students for jobs in growing industries in the San Francisco Bay region. The workshop presenters highlight the valuable role education can play in helping individuals compete in today’s job market. Workshop participants learn about an array of educational programs and services at CCC designed to help students of all ages and backgrounds achieve their educational and career goals. In addition to a brief overview of CTE programs, the presenters outline steps for enrolling at the college and applying for financial aid.

“Motivational Interviewing as a Tool for the Workforce Specialist: Part 1 — Overview of Methodology, Processes, and Key Concepts” — Reba White, PhD (Clinical Psychologist, Tracy, CA). This two-part workshop introduces workforce specialists to the style and skills effective in strengthening motivation and commitment to change in another person. This motivation and commitment is important in empowering the homeless, hard-to-employ, and long-term unemployed to get back to work and sustain employment. Part 1 of this workshop presents an overview of the four MI processes — engaging, focusing, evoking, and planning. Reflective skills development and practice are provided as time allows.

“Vicarious Trauma and Self Care”Yvonne Nair (Saffron Strand, Inc., Richmond, CA). The homeless often have histories of trauma and homelessness itself is a traumatic experience. What makes us good at our work with traumatized persons — and committed to that work — also puts us at risk. Our capacity for caring also makes us vulnerable to vicarious trauma and burnout. Those we serve have multifaceted and complex problems, which require equally demanding and often painstaking solutions. The intense, chronic, social, and economic nature of their problems and the sheer volume of issues we must deal with can be overwhelming. Our repeated exposure to their trauma can leave us feeling numb, cynical, and distressed. This workshop focuses on the concepts of vicarious trauma and burnout. It examines the subtle and not so subtle ways vicarious trauma may manifest in our work and our lives away from work. This workshop also explores what can be done to address these problems. Learning how to manage the challenges of our unique work is the key to taking good care of both our clients and ourselves.

“Speaking Publicly with Joy to Reach Employers” — Ivan Temes (Leadership and Loyalty, Palo Alto, CA). This workshop is uniquely designed to bring forth the confidence and ability to authentically communicate with those going through challenging times and wanting to build a relationship with employers. Experience working with veterans coming from homeless programs and others coming from long-term recovery situations shows that it is important to touch the heart of the potential employer – not just the head with information from a resume, although there are exceptions. Every job seeker has a passion that can connect to a potential employer, although that passion may be buried initially. He or she can tell a story that demonstrates a unique skill set and potential as a valued employee. “Fear and trepidation may inhibit the power of the potential interaction,” Ivan says. “But in learning to speak in front of others — which takes PRACTICE — the fear lessens and the candidate can reach employers in important ways, generating advantages over others with more recent experience. Miracles are possible via the handshake, the SMILE, and the story.”


2:45 – 3:00 p.m.

Opportunity to visit exhibits and network with colleagues


Monday Workshop Period 2

3:00 – 4:30 p.m.

“Motivational Interviewing as a Tool for the Workforce Specialist: Part 2 — Evoking a Person’s Own Reasons for Change” — Reba White, PhD (Clinical Psychologist, Tracy, CA). Part 2 of this workshop on motivational interviewing (MI) focuses on evoking a person’s own reasons for change. The evoking process is the essential component of MI when combined with the engaging and focusing. In this session, activities to develop and practice skills assist participants in using MI in their work with homeless, hard-to-employ, and long-term unemployed to re-enter the workforce and sustain employment.

“Individual Placement and Support (IPS) Supported Employment: Helping More People with Mental Health Challenges Get Back to Work” — Jackie Pogue, MA and Rick DeGette, MFT (Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services, Oakland, CA). This workshop explains the Individual Placement and Support/Supported Employment model (IPS) as a service that promotes recovery and economic empowerment for mental health consumers. IPS is an evidence-based practice that dramatically improves competitive employment outcomes for programs that utilize it. The workshop presenters share information about what the service entails and the research behind it. They also highlight Alameda County’s success with implementing IPS into agency mental health services and explore the implementation strategies that have led to transformation of the their agency’s vocational services.

“Benefits of Working with Child Support Services” — David Rasmussen (Contra Costa County Department of Child Support Services, Martinez, CA). Contra Costa County’s Child Support Program (CSP) has really changed over the last decade. Through collaborations with the courts, workforce agencies, jails, and community based organizations, CSP is broadening strategies to intervene early and address underlying reasons for non-payment of support. The agency’s goal is to work together with parents to educate them about their rights and responsibilities regarding child support, and to connect them to resources to improve their ability and willingness to support their children. This workshop provides an overview of how a child support order is established, modified, and enforced. It explores what actions can be taken to satisfy or possibly stop enforcement actions such as driver’s license suspensions or bank levies. The Department of Child Support Services is here to help, and establishing a working relationship with a caseworker provides many long-term benefits.

“Supporting Homeless Parents on Their Path to Employment” — Kristin Keller, MA and Amanda Sale, MA (Compass Family Services: Compass Family Resource Center, San Francisco, CA). This workshop provides a comprehensive snapshot of the complex circumstances and barriers that homeless parents in San Francisco face in meeting their employment goals. At the Compass Family Resource Center, case management clients consistently list employment as a goal. However, they are rarely job ready. While the Compass program provides intensive employment and education support, it is the program’s generalized case management model that allows staff to work intensively with clients to identify and overcome myriad barriers that stand in their way. Drawing upon client goal plans and needs assessments, as well as evaluation data of Compass employment and education services, the workshop presents a model for supporting families in meeting reasonable employment goals over time, on their path to stability and self-sufficiency. Using case study examples, this workshop includes a brainstorm session for developing strategies to help parents in need to overcome their barriers.

“The Intersection of Homelessness and Human Trafficking” — Elisabet Medina, MSW (Opening Doors, Inc., Sacramento, CA). Participants in this workshop learn what defines human trafficking, how to identify the signs of human trafficking, the services that are available to assist victims, and other resources that are available. This workshop is geared towards professionals who are likely to encounter human trafficking victims and are interested in building their skill set to address this vulnerable population, which includes many who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Tuesday Workshops

1:30 – 3:00 p.m.

“The Radar Approach to Job Retention for Homeless Youth” — Larry Robbin (Robbin and Associates, Oakland, CA). As hard as it is for youth who are homeless to get jobs, it can even be more of a struggle for them to keep those jobs. Most approaches to job retention are doing crisis intervention, which is too little too late to be effective. The “radar approach” shows you how to shift your retention work to a job loss prevention approach. It shows you how to transform all your pre-employment services so they help to support job retention. You can use this approach to learn the most common reasons youth quit and get fired. At the same time, you can find out how to add antidotes to these challenges into your program. You can make your employment follow-up build on the retention strengths of homeless youth. If you want more homeless youth to stay on the job longer, the radar approach can help.

“Supporting Post-Secondary Educational Success” — Debbie Raucher, MSW (California College Pathways, San Francisco, CA). Participation in post-secondary education opens up vastly more career options than a high school diploma alone. Higher education correlates with greater lifetime income, job stability, and quality of life. However, vulnerable and at-risk youth need guidance, motivation, and support to pursue their educational goals. This workshop helps those who work with foster youth and homeless youth understand how to most effectively support post-secondary success. It reviews the range of post-secondary educational alternatives available, including two-year and four-year degree programs and career and technical education options. It provides tips and strategies for motivating youth to expand their educational horizons and remain on track with educational goals. The workshop also reviews key information about financial aid, admissions requirements, new matriculation requirements, and other nuts and bolts of California’s system of post-secondary education, with an emphasis on programs specifically for foster youth.

“Motivational Interviewing: Person-Centered and Directive” — Jennifer Mullane, LPCC (Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services, Oakland, CA). Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a method to help people build motivation and commitment to change. It is both person-centered and directive, and is just as much a “way of being with people” as it is a set of skills. This “spirit” of MI is one that honors self-efficacy, personal choice, and empathy, creating an atmosphere of acceptance and compassion. This workshop provides an overview of MI with an emphasis on MI as a tool for engagement.

In collaboration with the Office of the Mayor of the City of Richmond, Saffron Strand presented the 2015 Jesse Curtis Awards for Reducing Homelessness in remembrance of a humble but remarkable member of the Richmond community.

Jesse lived into her 90s and died in Richmond, homeless and alone. Despite her own homelessness, she helped many others who were homeless in Richmond. Jesse’s extraordinary kindness in action built a bridge to a better life for many who worked their way out of homelessness. Her memory lives on in many hearts she touched.

Awards Program here!

Richmond City Councilmember Vinay Pimplé was the event’s master of ceremonies, assisted by Richmond Mayor Tom Butt, and Saffron Strand Chair Tasneem Nomanbhai.

Our 2015 Jesse Curtis Awards

Homeless Citizen Achievement Award:
Calvin Williams, Member of Saffron Strand, Inc.

When Calvin Williams first came to the Saffron Strand Center he trusted no one. He sat at one of computer workstations with his hooded sweatshirt covering most of his face. When he spoke, his voice was very low. Saffron Strand volunteers and other members had a hard time understanding him. Even at the family style lunches, he sat very quietly and did not participate in the usual lively discussion.

However, over time, he began to trust others and started coming out of his shell. Eventually, he admitted that he could not read or write, although he had a high school diploma.

Now he is learning to read and write and use the computer. He is learning about his people’s history and the role they played in the Civil Rights Movement. He is an integral member of the Saffron Strand intentional community, which is dedicated to getting all members back to work for the long term.

Calvin has become part of his community at large, too, speaking in front of City Council and attending community functions. He is learning how to advocate for himself in a constructive way. He is thinking about employment. It’s going to be a job that interests him, that can be a source of pride and income.

Homelessness Advocacy in Action Award:
Vanessa Marie Johnson Scott, Executive Director of Love Never Fails

The Homelessness Advocacy in Action Award honors a member of the Bay Area community who has been highly effective in advocating and achieving positive results with responsible, actionable, and sustainable solutions for homelessness.

Vanessa Marie Johnson Scott is a vibrant and tenacious volunteer leader for the cause of those most vulnerable. She has a strong passion for the freedom of the oppressed — no matter whether man, woman, or child. She works tirelessly toward that end.

What sparked Vanessa Marie’s passion was learning that one of her young high school students was being exploited and “sold” throughout the Bay Area. The spark caught flame, and after consulting her spiritual leader, she rallied 150 volunteers. In 2012, she founded and launched a volunteer non-profit organization, Love Never Fails, to fight against sex trafficking in California. In 2013, Vanessa Marie received the Jefferson Award for her frontline work against human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

Love Never Fails has made major strides against human trafficking by aiding the homeless who often are targets and easy victims. The non-profit’s programming includes: Mentors for Positive Change Program; California-approved Abuse Prevention and Sex Trafficking Awareness Program for Elementary School through High School; Men’s Services Program; Life Launch Program for Victims; Free Legal Services; Project Look for Me (for those who are missing); Community Awareness Program; and a monthly Outreach to those on the streets who are trafficked and homeless.

Vanessa Marie’s organization has fed, clothed, and prayed with thousands of homeless. Most recently, she opened I AM House, a much-needed safe house and emergency shelter for women and their children. The house filled quickly. Among those welcomed was a mother from San Jose who was pregnant and sleeping with her three young daughters in the parking lot of a Denny’s restaurant. They now live in a healthy and safe environment with the opportunity to thrive instead of falter.

In addition to leading Love Never Fails and its 800-plus volunteers, Vanessa Marie works full time and is a single mother of two.

Program Achievement Award:
Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services Vocational Program

The Homelessness Program Achievement Award honors a government, non-profit, or faith-based program’s extraordinary performance over the past year in helping to reduce homelessness in the Bay Area.

Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services Vocational Program uses an innovative, evidence-based service called Individual Placement and Support (IPS) to help people with mental health challenges get and keep competitive jobs that match their preferences. Along with providing direct vocational services to over 300 people per year, the Vocational Program also leads the development of IPS-supported employment programs at mental health agencies in Alameda County by providing intensive training, technical assistance, and ongoing support. Three agencies — Bay Area Community Services, Fred Finch Youth Center, and Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency — are currently offering the IPS service with support from the Vocational Program.

Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services serves people with serious mental illnesses who are in the public behavioral health system, many of whom experience poverty, homelessness, discrimination, and other challenges that make it hard to get ahead in life. When people enter the agency’s Vocational Program, they receive help right away to make contact with employers and get a job that matches their preferences. The focus is on people’s strengths and providing intensive, one-on-one support to help people be successful in their jobs.

The Vocational Program does not screen anybody out of services based on perceived readiness criteria. Rather, outcomes show that motivation to work is a strong predictor of success. Last quarter, over 40% of the people in the IPS-supported programs worked a competitive job of their choice.

One participant, who re-entered the workforce after 20 years of unemployment, had this to say: “Working has given me the opportunity to succeed. I can relax knowing that I was productive for that day and for what I have accomplished at work. Work has given me purpose and meaning in my life. I feel better about myself now that I am working and contributing to society.”

“Voice of the Homeless” Media Award:
Jill Tucker, Reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle and SF Gate

The “Voice of the Homeless” Media Award honors the leadership of a Bay Area corporate or individual print, broadcast, or web-based media source in reporting on homelessness issues most accurately and fairly over the past year.

Jill Tucker has reported extensively on homelessness in San Francisco and throughout the Bay Area. Her focus recently has been on the rapidly increasing number of homeless children in San Francisco’s Unified School District (SFUSD).

She also has covered the work of Saffron Strand and other organizations to address family homelessness, including her article in October 2014 focusing on Hamilton Family Center’s new and innovative partnership with the SFUSD. Jill explored how the Family Center is now providing rapid intervention services to the families of students that school staff have identified as homeless, at risk of homelessness, or marginally housed. She detailed how the Family Center also trains SFUSD staff to identify children experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

Jill’s stories about homelessness include:

Jill’s articles have been instrumental in bringing the attention of San Francisco’s government, decision makers, and philanthropists to the crucial issue of homelessness. They have contributed to making family homelessness a priority, resulting in new funding and new partnerships, such as the one between Hamilton Family Center and the SFUSD. Jill not only has a deep concern about homelessness, but has been vital in making it a priority for San Francisco.

Outstanding Volunteer Award:
David Moore, Sincere Design

The Outstanding Volunteer Award honors a member of the Bay Area community whose selfless, voluntary work has benefited the homeless and provided a great example to us all.

David Moore is a one-of-a-kind volunteer!

David spends several hours each week with the homeless at the Saffron Strand Center in Point Richmond. He helps Saffron Strand members with all their projects – reading, spelling, resume writing, cover letter writing, practicing interview questions, and making business cards. He has the kindest smile for everyone who walks into the Center and contributes his own unique gifts to the Saffron Strand intentional community.

Chair’s Award:
Jorge and Rosie Gomez, Founders of Spreading the Love of Jesus Ministry

The Chair’s Award, presented by the Chair of the Saffron Strand Board of Directors, honors dedicated and compassionate members of the community who have worked tirelessly and quietly behind the scenes to reduce homelessness.

Jorge and Rosie work tirelessly every week caring for the poor and homeless — their passion for the SLJM (Spreading the Love of Jesus Ministry) is always front and center in their lives.

Jorge and Rosie spread the good news of Jesus Christ and provide basic needs, food, and clothing on a regular and consistent basis to Richmond’s homeless. Two Saturdays every month, 100 to 200 lunches are assembled in the morning and distributed along with the gospel message. Many of Richmond’s homeless know Jorge and Rosie by name!

In addition, Jorge goes out faithfully every Thursday night to deliver food to less fortunate area families that are financially strapped.

Earlier this year, two homeless persons who had been living on the streets graduated from a 12-month discipleship and recovery program at the Bay Area Rescue Mission. Jorge and Rosie had been “cultivating” them for some time. Now the two are off the streets.

Presentation of Awards

Presentation of the 2015 Jesse Curtis Awards will take place at the Advocacy Luncheon June 16 during Saffron Strand’s 6th Annual Homeless Workforce Conference — ““Moving Beyond Barriers and Back to Work”  — June 15-16, 2015 at the Richmond Memorial Auditorium.

Each Jesse Curtis Award includes a free registration to “Moving Beyond Barriers and Back to Work” ($150 value).

Saffron Strand’s 2015 Conference educated professionals and other stakeholders on the latest research, best practices, and outstanding examples nationwide, showing how to truly help the homeless and others to move beyond the barriers to employment and re-enter the workforce for the long term.

Goals of “Moving Beyond Barriers and Back to Work” included to:

  1. Engage stakeholders in cost-effective, employment-focused solutions to homelessness, including the workforce of homeless and at-risk members of our communities
  2.  Identify gaps, incentives, and disincentives in existing housing, health care, and employment programs for the homeless and practical ways to integrate new solutions
  3.  Apply traditional and new best practices in the continuum of care and transition
  4.  Focus on programs to optimize employability and career potential of homeless persons
  5.  Use Richmond — where the homeless face every possible barrier — as the proving ground for new, employment-focused solutions to homelessness

Our 2015 Conference benefited everyone who works “in the trenches” or manages programs or policy involving the homeless, hard-to-employ, long-term unemployed and other vulnerable populations:

  • Employment development agencies, Workforce Investment Boards, and One-Stops
  • Employment specialists, job developers, and vocational rehabilitation specialists
  • Local and state homeless program administrators and executive staff
  • Public health providers, outreach staff, case managers, and social workers
  • Primary and emergency medical care, substance abuse, and mental health providers
  • State legislators, their legislative staff, and local elected officials
  • Family, drug, and criminal court judges and law enforcement leaders and police
  • Non-profit organizations, advocates for the homeless, philanthropic foundations
  • Community health center and hospital executives, staff, and board members
  • Public housing providers, landlords, and tenants
  • Local businesses affected by the homeless or concerned about increasing homelessness
  • People who have experienced homelessness and achieved their own solutions



The homeless can and often do succeed in working their way out of homelessness and poverty. But barriers to employment confront them from the start and threaten at every turn along the way. These barriers can overwhelm already vulnerable people – lack of education and marketable skills, poor job history, criminal record, mental health and substance abuse problems, PTSD, and many, many more.

Today’s homeless, hard-to-employ, and long-term unemployed need job skills and work-related social skills to match employers’ needs in a dynamic, technologically sophisticated job market.

They also need access to health care and housing. But health care and housing alone are not sufficient. Research and real-world experience prove that they need to move beyond their barriers to employment and gain marketable work skills in order to re-enter the workforce and begin their climb toward economic independence.

Whether you’re working “in the trenches” one-on-one with vulnerable people, managing public or charitable programs, or seeking sustainable public policy or cost-effective business solutions, Saffron Strand’s professional training and public education forum provided knowledge and skills to help the homeless and other and those at risk of homelessness back to work for the long term.

When the homeless and others among the most vulnerable  achieve rewarding, long-term employment, then everyone benefits. Like our five previous Homeless Workforce Conferences, Saffron Strand’s 2015 Conference trained participants to “retool” the homeless and those at risk of homelessness. Our 6th Annual Homeless Workforce Conference zeroed in on the critical first step — helping our most vulnerable workers move beyond the barriers and get back to work.