Sixth annual homeless workforce conference in Richmond to feature nation’s leading experts

Sixth annual homeless workforce conference in Richmond to feature nation's leading experts
Photo from Supervisor John Gioia's email newsletter.

A unique conference bringing together the nation’s leading authorities to discuss solutions to homelessness is set to take place Sunday and Monday at Richmond Memorial Auditorium.

The Saffron Strand Sixth Annual Homeless Workforce attracts experts from throughout California along with New York, Massachusetts, Tennessee and other states with the mission of identifying solutions to Bay Area homelessness. Their central mission: To share their extensive knowledge of how local homeless providers can help individuals — some who may be difficult to employ — find and sustain jobs through various career training, employment, health care and other resources.

The theme for this year’s conference is “Moving Beyond Barriers and Back to Work.”

The conference will include plenaries, workshops and other educational activities that provide “specialized employment services training for professionals and others assisting the homeless, hard-to-employ, and long-term unemployed,” according to Saffron Strand.

For more information on the conference, visit here. For registration information, visit here.

Conference speakers include:

Ralph da Costa Nunez, PhD (President and CEO, Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness, New York, NY), speaking on “The Path Out of Homelessness Is More Than Housing.” Dr. Nunez says, “The real, radical answer to homelessness is the most basic — education and work.” He suggests re-inventing homeless shelters as community education centers. See

Jeff Olivet (CEO, Center for Social Innovation, Boston, MA), speaking on racism and homelessness in “Nothing Can Be Changed Until It Is Faced.” Racism has a “staggering” impact on homelessness in the U.S., Olivet says. He points out that nearly half of America’s homeless are people of color, so communities must confront “the new Jim Crow” in order to impact homelessness. See

Larry Robbin (Executive Director, Robbin and Associates, Oakland, CA), speaking on “Appreciate the Impact of Your Work: Look at the Rest of the Iceberg!” Burnout is a common occupational hazard for those who work to improve the lives and futures of homeless and at-risk youth. The frustrations of trying to help young people overcome the anti-youth bias of employers, along with other employment barriers, take their toll.

Nick Loret de Mola (Legislative Analyst and Program Manager, California Workforce Association, Sacramento, CA), speaking on “Strengthening Services to At-Risk Youth.” Growing up in South Sacramento, Loret de Mola’s background includes watching friends become homeless, couch surfing, and sleeping in his car while trying to find his way into “the world of work.” But he can describe what success looks like and how homeless and disconnected youths can build lasting skills and careers.

Matt Martin (Executive Director, Social Advocates for Youth, Santa Rosa, CA), speaking on “Social Advocates for Youth: Being There for Youth When They Need It Most.” Martin explores the range of SAY’s programs for vulnerable youth and relates how these programs fit together to provide seamless help. He details two programs that have special importance in getting youth started on the right track in the job market: YouthLink Employment and Education Services and the new SAY Dream Center.