This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Katelyn Dalton was a homeless addict. She considered herself to be “unemployable.”
She says she was hurt and frustrated when she was rejected by prospective employers who rejected her application even when they said they were hiring. She boasts, “ I overcame it with self-perseverance and the support of social enterprises giving me the support and tools necessary to be successful.”
The social enterprises she mentions were supported by REDF, a nonprofit that supports social enterprises that employ the “unemployable.” Founded in 1997 by KKR’s George Roberts, the organization is led today by Carla Javits.
Dalton explains what it felt like to re-enter the workforce. “When I finally learned that I had the ability to be successful, I was worth it and I had value, I was able to put my 100 percent into my life and therefore become a star in the workplace.”
Javits exults, “Katelyn’s experience reflects exactly what REDF aspires to do for tens of thousands of people – demonstrating the power that a job can have in transforming the life of an individual and making it possible for them to contribute in a positive way to their family, while also improving their community.”
REDF works to replicate Dalton’s experience. Economic mobility, the process of moving up the socioeconomic ladder, is much more difficult in the U.S. than most of us appreciate. A surprising 43 percent of children born into poverty will remain poor over their entire lifetimes, according to REDF.
Dalton has now joined the effort to help people who are where she was. Today, she is a STEM Staffing Specialist with Teen Force, a nonprofit that works with foster youth and others from 14 to 24 who are at risk. She says, “My success lead me to help others succeed. I continue to do so every chance I get.”
REDF focuses on helping those at greatest disadvantage, like those who are released from prison. Without a job, the odds of returning to prison rise. This population also experiences high rates of homelessness. The organization works using a cross-sector approaching, engaging business, philanthropy and government to address these problems.
On Thursday, January 28, 2016 at 6:00 PM Eastern, Javits and Dalton will join me for a live discussion about the REDF programs and its successes. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about REDF:
REDF creates jobs and employment opportunities for people facing the greatest barriers to work–like young people who are disconnected from school or work, people who’ve been homeless or incarcerated, and those with mental health disabilities. Founded in 1997 by George R. Roberts (KKR), REDF provides funding and business expertise to mission-driven organizations in California to launch and grow social enterprises, which are businesses with a “double bottom line” that make money in order to employ people with multiple barriers to employment. REDF has helped over 10,000 people in California get jobs and find hope. Now REDF is taking best practices learned from 18 years of experience to grow their impact nationally.
REDF’s President and CEO, Carla Javits, provides the leadership and vision that drives its mission to provide equity-like investments and business assistance to social enterprises, mission-driven businesses focused on hiring and assisting people facing barriers to work. Inspired by the leadership of REDF’s founder, George R. Roberts, Carla focuses on achieving measurable results by leveraging the business community’s knowledge, networks, and resources, and the mission of the nonprofit to create jobs and tackle the challenges of homelessness, incarceration, mental health, and addiction.
In overseeing strategy, relationship building, and fundraising, Carla works directly with the leadership team as well as the Board of Directors and Advisory Council that are instrumental to REDF’s success. In leading an expansion from the Bay Area to new horizons in Southern California, Carla has laid the foundation for REDF to impact the lives of many more people nationwide. Under Carla’s leadership, REDF was awarded a federal Social Innovation Fund grant by the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the Los Angeles Business Times Nonprofit Social Enterprise of the Year award in 2013. San Francisco Magazine recognized Carla in their list of innovative Bay Area Philanthropists.
Before coming to REDF, Carla was the national President and CEO of the Corporation for Supportive Housing, where she was responsible for providing grants, loans, and technical assistance to service-enriched housing initiatives that ended homelessness for tens of thousands. She was Program Analyst with the California Office of the Legislative Analyst and Director of Policy and Planning for the San Francisco Department of Social Services.
Carla holds a BA and Master’s in Public Policy from UC Berkeley. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Social Enterprise Alliance and the Melville Charitable Trust and as an Advisor to the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship at Duke University. She is a member of the Advisory Committee of The Philanthropic Initiative as well as the Insight Center for Community Economic Development National Advisory Board. Away from work, Carla likes spending time with her partner, her grown children, and her dog. She enjoys music, movies, theatre, cooking, and spending time outdoors.
More about TeenForce:
TeenForce is a non-profit, social enterprise that ensures teens (ages 14-24) gain work experience. We provide work readiness training, skills development and job placement services. Our staffing agency model makes it convenient and cost-effective for employers to hire teens and generates revenue to support our activities. Teens in our program gain confidence and skills while improving adult/teen relationships. Teens become healthy, caring and responsible young adults who have important roles in the community. We help teens increase important developmental assets and help schools in developing “career ready” youth, while addressing the problem of teen employment.
We plan to create a business model that will be replicated throughout the country to help a variety of diverse communities facing these challenges.
We have a special emphasis on foster youth. We recently made a commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative America to provide our services in the STEM program we offer to 100% of the foster youth in Santa Clara County.
Katelyn is a STEM Staffing Specialist with TeenForce who brings knowledge of retail, non-profit, and case management. Her prior experience with Goodwill of Silicon Valley brings a strong foundation of helping individuals break difficult barriers to employment. She is personally familiar with social services and the foster care system and has a deep passion for helping people. Katelyn is certified in Arts and Sciences of Coaching and utilizes positive reinforcement to help individuals realize their full potential. She recently switched roles and is now assisting with the STEM program with Teenforce. This program is designed for high school foster youth. Youth gain STEM training, job readiness skills and job placement in a paid summer internship in Santa Clara County.