LOS ANGELES — They came looking for jobs. Any kind of a job.
Something that would pay them enough money to get them off the streets.
That was the scene at City Hall Dec. 9 as the city of Los Angeles staged a job fair with 30 homeless service providers seeking to fill 900 positions.
The first-ever Homeless Services Provider Job Fair of Los Angeles was held to fill positions partially funded by Measure H, a sales tax measure approved by county voters last March. Plans call for similar job fairs to be held every quarter until all open positions are filled.
“Each person hired through this job fair will play a critical role in keeping vulnerable Angelenos from falling into homelessness, and helping people who are on our streets get back on their feet,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said.
The event was hosted by Garcetti’s Office of Economic Opportunity in partnership with the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority, United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the City of Los Angeles Economic and Workforce Development Department and the County of Los Angeles Workforce Development.
“Today organizations have the resources they need to staff up and amplify their efforts to help end this crisis,” Garcetti added.
Garcetti was joined by county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and City Councilman Curren Price, who have both been vocal in their efforts to assist the homeless population.
“Thanks to Measure H, our nonprofit partners are finally able to hire the staff needed to scale up their response to the homeless crisis,” Ridley-Thomas said. “Measure H is creating opportunities for people from all walks of life who are looking for work, and who want to be part of the solution. Measure H is a jobs program for people at all levels of education and expertise, including people who have experienced homelessness. This is Measure H at Work.”
In the city of Los Angeles, there are an estimated 34,000 homeless, up 20 percent from 2016. In Los Angeles County, the homeless population is estimated to have climbed to 58,000.
Those attending the job fair submitted résumés and were interviewed for positions covering a wide range of experience and education — from entry-level outreach workers to executive directors. Most of the opportunities were made possible through $290 million allocated in Measure H’s first-year spending plan.
There were many attending that had experienced homelessness themselves and were eager to help the homeless population.
“I recently received my degree in social work,” said Tamara Worthington, 33, of Carson. Worthington she was homeless from the ages of 14 to 19, she said, and is still haunted by the experience.
“I’m trying not to let myself get in that situation again,” she said.
Bobby May, a community liaison for Skid Row who works for Goodwill Industries, was in foster care until he “aged out” of the system at age 18 and wound up on the streets.
May, who has found jobs for approximately 300 formerly homeless, said, “There are people who regularly come down to Skid Row to feed you and give you clothing, but many of the homeless turn around and sell the clothes. What the homeless population really need is jobs.’’
Jenae Watkins hopefully surveyed the dozens of recruiters and said she was looking for a job as a case manager or housing navigator for the homeless.
“I gave out my resume and I got some real positive responses,” she said. “I’ve been out of work since 2015.”
Watkins said she suffered from mental health issues when she was employed. “A supervisor on my job suggested that I should go see a therapist,” she said. “They eventually laid me off and I couldn’t pay my rent. I slept in my car or at a friend’s house — I eventually wound up on the streets.”
Watkins was lucky.
“I had a lot of information on resources for the homeless and I was able to get into a program that helps homeless adults,” she said.
Billy Simonds, 39, carefully surveyed the job recruitment tables. “I’m looking for a job as a homeless advocate,” he said.
“I lost my job, wife and car after I was laid off from a steel foundry during the 2008 recession,” he recalled. “Now I couch surf at friend’s homes or sleep on the streets.”
He shook his head sadly. “I never thought I’d be homeless or without my kids.”
Simonds said he wants a job so that he can save money and rent an apartment with his girlfriend, who he met in a homeless encampment. ‘”Sleeping on the streets is not easy,” he said, shaking his head. “I’ve had enough of being homeless.”