South L.A. nonprofit provides hope through employment
Derrick Hill, Outreach Specialist at Dad’s Back Academy and Community Build President Robert Sausedo partnered to secure employment for 80 formerly incarcerated individuals with felony convictions.
As the one year anniversary of the Coronavirus pandemic nears, Black unemployment continues to hover around 10% and thousands remain unemployed or underemployed. Many South Los Angeles nonprofits have stepped up their efforts to fill the employment void and made providing jobs a top priority. Leimert Park-based nonprofit Community Build, Inc. (CBI) is one of those agencies.
CBI provides intervention and prevention social programs, job training for youth and adults as well as employment services. As the Coronavirus and shelter in place have persisted, CBI has focused on securing city and county grants to provide employment.
In an effort to spur an economy that has become stagnant due to mandatory stay at home orders, state and local governments have poured millions into temporary job creation. CBI has received county and city grants to provide hundreds of temporary jobs for South Los Angeles residents eager for work.
“Part of Community Build’s mission is to offer hope to individuals through employment opportunities that provide a living wage,” CBI President Robert Sausedo said.
A native Angeleno who grew up in South Los Angeles, Sausedo said he feels a special responsibility to bring jobs to underserved communities. In September, when CBI lost an opportunity to hire 1,000 workers for the City of Los Angeles CARES Act outreach program, he was devastated. The day project was to be publicly announced, the City decided to delay the program launch.
“To be unable to immediately provide these jobs was a devastating blow for our organization. I knew it was going to be even more devastating to the people that needed the work,” said Robert Sausedo, CBI’s president. “I saw the hope in their eyes at the prospect of getting a job and being able to have an income. With all the disappointment and disillusion that’s come with COVID, we had to find some way to keep hope alive. I knew we had to make a way out of no way.”
Robert Sausedo and Derrick Hill discuss employment opportunities for individuals with felony convictions.
After the project was pulled, Sausedo spent days calling city and county agencies to secure funding for employment programs. Although he was unable to secure funding as large as the $15 million City contract that was postponed, he was successful in landing County and City contracts totaling over $2.2 million that have translated into over 600 temporary jobs. In addition, CBI hosted a job fair where 30 individuals were placed at nursing, security, sanitation and staffing agencies.
c was hired by CBI in November for a temporary assignment as a COVID-19 Community Health Workers. The position was part of a County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health (DPH) outreach initiative to deliver community-based services to areas disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. The six week assignment paid $1,000 per week.
Williams is a single mother who also works part time at an Amazon warehouse to make ends meet. She said that she was grateful for employment even if it was temporary. “I need to provide for my daughter and myself and it’s been really challenging during this COVID time,” Williams said. “This project gives me hope to know there are organizations out there that will cater to us and give us a chance.”
AyAnna Boddie said she never thought about ageism when she took some time off from her work as a private homecare nurse before the pandemic hit. As money ran low and she tried to reenter the job market. Not willing to return to homecare because of COVID concerns, the 49-year old said she was interviewed by managers half her age for positions which she was well qualified.
“Ageism is real.” said Boddie. “A lot of people my age are not afraid to work, want to come to work, will show up on time, and will stay late if you need us to, but nobody will hire us.”
Boddie heard about CBI’s community health care worker position from her niece. She interviewed and was hired the same day. The community outreach work was a perfect fit for Boddie. “It just brought me back to something that I was missing when I did hospice care,” she said.
Of the 600 canvass workers hired by CBI from October to December, 80 had felony convictions and were on probation or parole. CBI partnered with Derrick Hill, Outreach Specialist at Dad’s Back Academy, an organization focused on assisting fathers reentering society after serving a prison sentence. Individuals with felony convictions have an especially difficult time finding steady employment. For many of these men, the CBI temporary assignments made the difference between being housed and being homeless.
Dion Coleman served ten years for a felony assault conviction and was released in 2016. Coleman was hired as a supervisor on the Community Health Workers Outreach Initiative. Part of Coleman’s responsibility was to make sure his crew of 20 workers were operating within their radius in Koreatown and had all the supplies – hand sanitizers, masks, hand wipes, brochures, etc. – they needed to distribute to individuals, families, and businesses.
As a part of the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health (DPH) outreach initiative, Community Health Workers distributed personal protective equipment to the public.
Coleman said he appreciated how Sausedo has fought to get funding for employment programs. “I think it’s a wonderful thing because it gives us a chance to be out in the community helping people,” said Colman. “This is my first time hearing about Community Build, but as I move forward in my life, I’m always going to reflect on the professionalism I was shown.”
As the Coronavirus pandemic nears the one year mark, Sausedo said the services and employment programs that CBI and other community nonprofits provide is more critical than ever.
“In this country, at this particular time, we as black people, really have come to a point where we have to be the change we want to see,” said Sausedo. “Among many other things, 2020 proved that we’ve got to save ourselves because no one else is going to.”
For more information visit communitybuildinc.org or call 323.290.6560.