SF firm creates jobs for those hardest hit


There will be $3 million going from the federal government to a San Francisco firm called REDF. It stands for the Roberts Enterprise Development Fund and it sponsors local start-up companies whose singular focus is to create jobs for the very people who have the hardest time getting them.

There's no doubt about it, janitor Reedie Powell has a dirty job emptying compost pails at a San Francisco housing project, but it is a big step up from a year ago.

"Let's just say I was a very bad guy back then," said Powell.

Powell had been in and out of jail and his record kept him from finding work. But last year, he got hired by a local startup called Green Streets founded to help people just like him.

"This is what we do every day to survive and take care of our family," said Powell.

Sorting out the recyclables and the compost from the trash cans in the housing authority communities where they live, Green Streets employees know there's nothing glamorous about their jobs, but they love them anyway.

"You smell garbage, you smell money, and then you know you're getting paid for what you're doing," said Powell.

There are plenty of other programs that provide jobs for people in a tough spot, but many of them rely heavily on tax money. Green Streets doesn't, it actually makes money. In fact, the only tax dollars it has taken are in the form of what's essentially venture capital.

"The money that we're able to save off each of the trash bills from reducing waste is what goes in our pockets," said Green Streets co-founder Dave Denson.

At this complex alone, Green Streets cut $10,000 off the garbage bill and used that money to pay its employees. It's a simple business model they developed with help and startup money from REDF.

"We provide not only the financial support, but also a whole suite of business planning services just like a VC would do for the startup of a small business," said REDF president Carla Javits.

Now, with a $3 million grant from the federal government, REDF will help start more companies like Green Streets and help create more jobs.

"So that hundreds of thousands of people eventually can be employed this way," said Javits.

And no matter how dirty those jobs are, the demand for them is there. The manager of that property said there are at least 20 people on the waiting list to get a job collecting and sorting that community's trash.

Upcoming HIREvents Job Fair sponsored by ABC7 and the Job Journal:
Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011
Noon -- 4 p.m.
Doubletree Hotel
2050 Gateway Place
San Jose, CA

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