Year-End Outcomes: Homeless Members Getting Back to Work
- Since our founding in 2009, we have served more than 250 homeless residents of Contra Costa County communities and other Bay Area communities, about 200 of whom have become members of Saffron Strand
- We have trained and supported 117 of our homeless members to achieve outside, paid employment, and 90 have sustained their employment for 2 years or more
- In 2013, we expanded services to assist Contra Costa’s growing homeless Hispanic population
A majority of Saffron Strand’s homeless members are African American. About one-fifth are 18-24 years of age. More than half have substance abuse or mental health problems or co-occurring disorders. Nearly a third have criminal records for offences ranging from fraud and prostitution to armed robbery and manslaughter. Thirty percent are parents with dependent children.
Our members represent the full demographic range of homelessness – all races, ages, education levels, and more. What they have in common is that they want to get back to work and they have the support of our intentional community to make it happen.
In 2013, our advocacy crystallized in the goal to develop the homeless workforce, a pioneering nationwide vision:
- Webinar “Employment Support in the HCH Setting” – the first-ever employment-focused training for providers of health care for the homeless by the National Health Care for the Homeless Council (http://www.nhchc.org/2013/01/employment-support-in-the-hch-setting/)
- 2013 Homeless Workforce Conference: “Developing the Homeless Workforce — What Will It Take?” which featured leading authorities from the U.S. Department of Labor, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the New York City-based research firm MDRC, and others focused on training and support for the homeless and hard-to-employ who want to get back to work
- 2013 Conference Networking Luncheon with keynote on “The Crossroads of Racism and Homelessness,” by Jeff Olivet (CEO and President, Center for Social Innovation, Needham, MA) who reported that “homelessness in the U.S. disproportionately affects people of color”
- 2013 Jesse Curtis Awards for Reducing Homelessness, in collaboration with the Office of the Mayor of the City of Richmond, including the Homeless Citizen Achievement Award, Homelessness Program Achievement Award, “Voice of the Homeless” Media Award, Homelessness Advocacy in Action Award, Outstanding Volunteer Award, and the Chair’s Award
In 2013, Saffron Strand collaborated with dozens of national, statewide, and local agencies, non-profit organizations, and businesses, including:
- City of Richmond
- West County Mayors and Supervisors Association
- Contra Costa County Mayors’ Conference
- Workforce Development Board of Contra Costa County
- California Workforce Investment Boards
- U.S. Department of Labor
- Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco
- EastBay Works
- National Health Care for the Homeless Council
- Contra Costa Health Care for the Homeless
- Alameda County Health Care for the Homeless
- Kaiser Permanente
- The California Endowment
- Richmond Progressive Alliance
- Courtyard Marriott Richmond–Berkeley
Saffron Strand also has an ongoing job training program with the East Bay Works Senior program and an on-the-job training contract for Spanish-language community outreach to “stressed homes” (threatened with foreclosure or tenant eviction) under the City of Richmond’s Community Development Block Grant.
Visitors to the Saffron Strand Center and participants in our Annual Conferences have trouble telling our homeless members apart from our volunteers and staff. That’s because we strive for wellness for our members:
- We prepare a delicious, nutrition lunch each day at the Saffron Strand Center and serve it family-style, with members, volunteers, and staff all enjoying the meal
- Our members can schedule an appointment for free hair cuts and image consulting with Saffron Strand Director Joe Escobedo at his salon Anton in Berkeley
- For 2014, we plan to initiate yoga classes to help our members improve physical fitness and mental resiliency
The unrelenting challenge of homelessness in Richmond and the poorest communities of the Bay Area is generating more interest in Saffron Strand’s employment-focused approach. Both citizens and civic leaders are noticing the positive, highly cost-effective impact of our work:
- Jefferson Award for Public Service (2012)
- Safeco Community Hero Award (2013)
- Inaugural City of Richmond Human Rights-Justice Award (2013)
The work of Saffron Strand culminates in lives reclaimed and communities re-invigorated. Our work spurs economic development of some of the poorest communities in the Bay Area. It improves the quality of the local workforce by increasing the marketable skills of workers to match current and future job markets.
Richmond and other low-income Bay Area communities need a strong and flexible workforce in order to attract and retain new business development. Saffron Strand plays a unique role in getting the homeless back to work and giving businesses more reason to invest where and how poor communities need investment the most.