San Francisco is the land of trolleys, tech companies, niche coffee shops, and increasingly, the land of social mobility for the homeless.
Because the city has been at the heart of the tech boom, many of San Francisco’s at-risk citizens have been left behind by the corresponding economic boom, especially due to sky-rocketing home values.
That’s why a formerly-homeless poet and writer, Del Seymour, founded Code Tenderloin: a nonprofit that seeks to rehabilitate, train, and find employment for the disenfranchised residents of Tenderloin, the Bay city’s poorest and most ethnically diverse neighborhood.
So far, 300 students have graduated from the program and almost half of them have already found employment in the tech sector. Some of the grads have even been hired into six-figure jobs.
In an interview with Business Insider, Victoria Westbrook, who is the director of programs and operations at Code Tenderloin, gave some background about her journey and the organization. Westbrook says that for 20 years, she was a drug user who was living in a halfway house. Then her friend told her about Code Tenderloin. There, she learned networking skills, built a business relationship with Seymour, and condensed her resume from four pages down to one.
“My past shapes me, but it doesn’t define me unless I let it,” Westbrook said.
She explained that Code Tenderloin accepts everybody into its program unless they are an active addict – but even then, the organization doesn’t just give them the cold shoulder. Instead, Code Tenderloin will help the applicant find the help they need to get back on their feet. Once applicants are within the program, the varied skills they learn can help them in any field: networking, resume building, elevator pitches, and more.
Since 2015, Code Tenderloin has used its connections in the industry to place 100 of their applicants into job positions. Thus far, 35% of them have stayed with their employer for over 12 months.
Westbrook expressed hope for the future, saying that they are planning on offering mentorship to their students after graduation so they can continue to flourish in the business world.