Program helps homeless find work

Charie Pittman may be alone in the world on this one: She cannot wait to pay her taxes. Pittman, who was a mother of three with another baby on the way when she became homeless 14 years ago, now has a full-time job as a desk clerk at the Hamlin Hotel on Eddy Street in the Tenderloin.

“I’m growing up; I’m taking responsibility with myself,” the 34-year-old woman said. “I feel like I want to file taxes. I’ve even started looking at my credit report.”

She is a success story for CHP Enterprises, the new business side of local nonprofit group Community Housing Partnership, which manages supportive housing for the homeless.

The partnership initially aimed to train people so they could be hired by residential buildings around The City, but problems with placement arose as employers had concerns about applicants’ varied and mixed histories of unemployment or substance abuse, according to officials with CHP.

“We were having a really hard time placing the graduates,” said Jeff Kositsky, the executive director of CHP. “We ended up hiring most of the graduates of our training programs.”

Out of these difficulties, CHP Enterprises got its start. The program contracts with property managers to provide workers — such as front-desk clerks, maintenance workers and cleaning staff — while handling employmentcomponents as payroll and human resources.

Supported by a $350,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CHP Enterprises’ first contract with the Chinatown Community Development Center has generated 18 desk clerk jobs at four of the center’s housing sites in the Tenderloin.

Starting pay is $10 per hour and full-time workers receive benefits, Kositsky said, adding that about half of the 18 desk clerks work full-time.

Joanne Lee, deputy director of the Chinatown Community Development Center, said the group was not worried about the histories of any potential employees due to the “excellent track record” of the group’s trainees.

Pittman, whose history includes marijuana addiction, crack-cocaine dealing, three months in prison and three years on the streets, has lived in one of CHP’s housing sites on O’Farrell Street for the last two years.

But now she has found her “passion” — reaching out to people. She said she hands out fliers and information on resources for the homeless when she works at her desk clerk job, which she has had since Nov. 4.

For now, though, she is also reaching out to Oakland where she will rent a four-bedroom house. “I’ve got more income now and can afford a bigger spot,” she said.

dsmith@examiner.com

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