The following story includes contributions from Loria Price, Jamie Brewster, and Harold Atkins who run programs at our locations in San Francisco, Oakland, and San Mateo respectively.
It’s easy to say that Success Centers offers employment services. But we serve marginalized communities, and the people we work with confront circumstances that can’t be conveniently summed up or resolved. Each one has a story. Each one has unique needs. We take every individual and work with them to get them to the ultimate goal: steady, meaningful employment.
During the quarantine, we have transitioned to the virtual space. Employment workshop topics have included resume writing, career coaching, and employer spotlights. We have produced more than a dozen virtual workshops, some repeated on Facebook Live, attended by more than a hundred people total.
But since many of our clients don’t have access to a computer or the internet, much of our work relies on a more basic mode of communication: the phone. Every day we get inquiries from very concerned, very stressed out people. In many cases, they have called other community-based organizations only to learn that they are closed, or municipal agencies only to be placed on hold for so long that they give up. Many only speak Spanish, and we connect them with one of our bilingual staff members. The questions we get run the gamut:
How do I answer the questions if I’m self-employed?
I applied and received an approval letter three weeks ago and still no payment.
I received the debit card but there was no money on the card.
I’ve been on unemployment before and reapplied and they denied me.
We answer every question and attempt to overcome obstacles so that our clients can get the most out of our services or outside services. Even those who manage to land a job still need our assistance with things like employment verification documents. We follow up with each one.
Our programs draw on our long-standing relationships with employers seeking workers (Safeway, Amazon, TNDC, to name a few) and various agencies. During the quarantine alone, we have worked with more than 400 individuals, which translates to about 2,000 hours of one-to-one work. We have placed dozens in jobs.
Jamie remarks, “I am grateful to be part of an organization that was able to adapt so quickly and move into the virtual space. I’m learning along with everyone else. Working from my couch, I am still able to help people.” He shares this story.
“We worked with a client in January and February and finally landed him a full-time job at a hotel. With the outbreak, that new job fell through. We scrambled and managed to find him two part-time jobs—one by day, the other by night—in industries unaffected by the quarantine. It’s not ideal. But he can make it work for now.”
We continue to get positive feedback from our clients:
Thank you for returning my calls, you’re the only person that has picked up the phone.
Thank you for providing me with some kind of information and guidelines on how to file.
Thank you for walking me through the process.
Even as the quarantine continues, Success Centers remains a critical, frontline resource for the community. The pandemic has changed the way we work, but it hasn’t stopped us. Loria states, “It’s not about me. It’s about us. Since we’re in this new normal, we do a great job working as a team and the work shows.”