SF job fair puts Tenderloin residents on track to employment

There were no resumes, suits or business cards among prospective employees at a job fair in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood.

But there was a homeless outreach organization, police officers and a lawyer on standby to help the formerly incarcerated expunge criminal records.

The event, at 1028 Market St., was just blocks away from technology companies Spotify, Twitter and Yammer, but it wasn’t meant for tech workers. Instead, it brought out around 160 job seekers from the Tenderloin community — young and old, homeless and housed, ex-cons and model citizens.

The Hall pop-up food market, with help from the Tenderloin Police Station, the San Francisco public defender’s office, the mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, and a host of other organizations, put on its first employment fair to help teenagers get summertime jobs and older residents get back in the workforce.

Fear of being left out

While the gathering mainly targeted at-risk youths, anyone looking for work was free to stop by the 16 booths that housed employers and employment services.

“We’re just trying to make the businesses look like the street,” Del Seymour, founder of the Code Tenderloin job readiness program, said at last week’s fair. “No one’s going to come out here and ignore my folks.”

There’s a rising fear that Tenderloin residents will get left behind amid the burgeoning development boom in the area. A shopping mall is under construction on Market between Fifth and Sixth streets, and tech giants have already brought thousands of workers to the area.

Even the Hall, the venue for the fair, is a temporary development put in place to keep the area vital as developers Tidewater Capital and War Horse move ahead with plans to build 186 housing units and more than 10,000 square feet of retail space.

Organizers of events like the job fair hope to improve the quality of life across the board for Tenderloin residents by helping them land work.

“It’s really exciting,” said Ilana Lipsett, community manager at the Hall. “One of the original ideas for this was that there are a number of people who kind of hang out on Market Street and have started asking us at the Hall for jobs. (That) gave us this idea that it should be easier for people to find a job.”

Cherri Frazier, a 52-year-old homeless woman attending the event, had spent almost half of her life in prison. She served 23 years of a 25-years-to-life sentence for conspiracy to commit murder.

She got out of prison three years ago and says she was discharged from parole five weeks ago.

“It’s giving people a way out. They’re given a chance now,” Frazier said of the fair. “Having the community backing has really helped me to stay focused and keep my mind on the task at hand.”

Job applicants like Frazier came in and out in waves for the three-hour fair.

Eddie Corril, left, and Keith Corbin taste test food in the kitchen area of L coL restaurant June 29, 2016 in Oakland, Calif. Restaurants finding workers among the disadvantaged BART Police Sgt. Michael Williamson asks a woman if she needs any assistance on the plaza of the 16th St. BART station in San Francisco, California, on Thurs. May 5, 2016. The SFPD along with BART Police are preparing to launch a new program that will offer those about to be arrested or cited for drug possession the chance to go through a treatment program instead of facing the criminal justice system. SF pilot program looks to help drug users, not arrest them Maria San Antonio puts together a lunch order for a customer at Kusina Ni Tess in San Francisco, California, on Thursday, May 5, 2016. Tenderloin ethnic eateries join forces for online orders

Criminal records

Greg Goldman, an attorney from the San Francisco public defender’s office, passed out applications to job fair attendees for the city’s Clean Slate program. About 10 people stopped by his table, and with each meeting he had to dispel the myth that criminal records would disappear.

Employers would still be able to see an expunged incident on records. The only difference is a notation at the bottom that says the conviction was “dismissed.”

“Your average state senator, congressman … when they wrote these laws, they didn’t realize it doesn’t really help people as much as one would hope,” Goldman said. “What people really need is to have their record erased.”

Andrew Trought, 33, who has served a few stints in jail, said he had fallen into a cycle of homelessness and hustling before he became involved with Code Tenderloin, a job readiness program that connected him to the fair.

“Everything has been falling into place,” he said. He had recently found a place to stay and was searching for a solid job — one that didn’t involve selling drugs.

“Being out there and hustling, that world, it just felt like a dead end,” he said. “After what they showed me, I realized it was not just a job readiness program, it went way beyond that.”

Veronica Green, Trought’s girlfriend, didn’t know anything about the fair before he dragged her along with him.

After she realized what she walked into, Green said, she was glad she came.

“When … you don’t know where to start, these people really put the time out to give you resources, and it’s just a wonderful thing, a wonderful opportunity,” she said.

Interviews and jobs

Green said she had been in and out of the city’s foster care system since she was 15 and was homeless for a while before recently finding a family friend to stay with.

Helping at-risk youths was a major point of the fair, said Tenderloin Station police Capt. Teresa Ewins. She worked with Lipsett on creating the gathering, which she said will keep idle youths out of trouble before school starts again in the fall.

“Summertime brings a lot of violence, unfortunately,” Ewins said. “We want the district to be safe. Part of that equation is getting kids to a place where they occupy their time with other things.”

By the end of the fair, the Market in the Twitter building on Market Street interviewed two candidates. Ten people spoke with Larkin Street Youth Services and should qualify for work if they follow up, Lipsett said.

Managed by Q — a startup that provides cleaning, maintenance and restocking services for offices — had about 20 people who applied on the spot, including Green.

She said the company promptly sent her an email to set up a meeting. By Thursday, she had the interview. On Friday, Managed by Q gave her the good news: She starts work July 27.

“It went very wonderful. They called me back the next day,” she said. “I’m really just happy to have this opportunity.”