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“Defragmenting the Homeless Continuum: Linking Pathways to Self-Sufficiency” took place June 18-19, 2012 at the Richmond Memorial Auditorium in Richmond, CA. All who participated in our Third Annual Conference proclaimed it “The best Conference yet!”

The Conference crystallized a common objective for everyone trying to help the homeless: Make it a priority to help the homeless get back to work and increase their self-sufficiency. By focusing on employment for the homeless and those at high risk of homelessness, like the formerly incarcerated, it provided a holistic, collaborative perspective and a framework for action among disparate groups and their “siloed” programs.

This annual event has proven to be unique in bringing together leaders in health care, housing, and employment to focus on increasing self-sufficiency among the homeless. Again this year, nationally recognized authorities and experts throughout the Bay Area came to Richmond. Conference participants came from every discipline and type of organization: Public agencies, non-profits, faith-based groups, private charities and foundations. By listening, learning, and networking, they discovered they shared many of the same challenges. They also discovered they could collaborate in new ways to reduce duplication of effort and coordinate individual program strengths for greater effect.

A total of 45 non-profits participated in the 2012 Conference, which was supported by 15 sponsoring organizations, led by Mayor’s Office of the City of Richmond and including the West County Mayors and Supervisors Association and the Contra Costa County Mayors Conference along with leading corporations, small businesses, and non-profit organizations seeking to reduce homelessness.

The Monday (June 18) plenary session focused on health care, housing, and workforce development to increase the employment of the “hard-to-employ,” particularly the homeless. Speakers included Dr. Gabriela Lemus (U.S. Department of Labor, Washington, DC), Captain Henry Lopez, Jr. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, DC), Darin Lounds (Housing Consortium of the East Bay, Oakland), Jacquelyn Anderson(Corporation for Supportive Housing, Oakland), Carla Javits (REDF, San Francisco), and Stephen Baiter (Contra Costa County Workforce Development Board, Pleasant Hill).

The Tuesday (June 19) plenary session focused on the increasingly urgent issue of employment of California’s growing population of the formerly incarcerated, many of whom return to communities like Richmond without jobs or qualifications for jobs and so are at high risk of homelessness and re-incarceration. Speakers included Michelle Natividad Rodriquez (National Employment Law Project, Oakland), Lavern Vaughn (Safe Return Project, Richmond), and Marcy Orosco (Harbor House Re-Entry Program, San Francisco).

Conference events included the National Networking Luncheon (with keynote by Dr. Lemus), followed by 12 Workshops. Tuesday events included the Advocacy Luncheon (with keynote by Paul Boden of the Western Regional Advocacy Project) and Saffron Strand’s 2012 Awards for Reducing Homelessness, followed by 10 Workshops.

Throughout the 2012 Conference, plenary speakers and workshop leaders responded to the need to increase the self-sufficiency of the homeless and other low-income residents by improving their employability and employment. For the first time, California’s Workforce Investment Boards participated in the Saffron Strand Conference, including discussions with providers of health care and housing services for the homeless and other low-income populations.

For details, see the Conference Program.

Also, our 2012 Conference added to the positive public image we’re building for Richmond. Local news coverage included Richmond Confidential,Mercury News, and broadcasters, including CBS News.

The success of Saffron Strand’s 2012 Conference owes much to the incredible effort of Saffron Strand members and volunteers. Here’s a short list of those who “came early and stayed late” on June 18-19. Thank you!

In news after the Conference, Saffron Strand CEO and Executive Director, Yvonne Nair, was nominated for a Jefferson Award for Public Service for the work of Saffron Strand. She accepted the Award in behalf of every person and organization that helps to revitalize the lives and re-engage livelihoods of the homeless and others who are among the most vulnerable in our communities.

For more information: click here.

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