Grantor: Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
Grantee: Labor Connection
Two years ago, Art Valencia was battling a 12-year heroin addiction and making a last-ditch effort to get his life back on track. Today, the Vietnam veteran is employed and in school with plans to become a paralegal.
What happened? Valencia connected with a business that encourages what for many homeless people is the ultimate in deviant behavior—steady work. The business is Labor Connection, a nonprofit temp agency begun in 1990 that works with the down and out in the Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and Hollywood areas. A grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation paid for start-up costs, including phone service and office space.
Each client in the program is referred through Chrysalis—a parent nonprofit that provides the homeless with drug and alcohol treatment services—and must be certified by a case manager to have the ability and desire to obtain employment. Applicants then go through an intensive screening program, concluding with a mock job interview, before being placed with companies.
Mara Manus, executive director of Chrysalis, says Labor Connection “is absolutely run like any other private corporation. We differ from [other temp agencies] in that we provide a higher level of customer service and act as an intermediary with the employers. We are open 24 hours a day. We will replace a staffer within four hours.”
Labor Connection’s chief innovation may be that it enables companies to help people in need without taking the plunge of making a permanent hire.
Says Manus: “We provide employers access to a labor pool they may not have considered, and they can decide to take someone on a temporary basis.”
“The last thing employers want to deal with is staff problems, which are very draining for people. With Labor Connection, all the onus of the staff problems fall on us. If there’s a problem, they call us.”
Since 1994, Labor Connection has placed over 1,000 individuals in jobs, thereby making a meaningful dent in Los Angeles County’s homeless population. The organization has 120 client accounts in Southern California (and its own sales force landing new clients) and billed 120,000 work hours in 1997. Annual revenues now run around $900,000 and the organization’s weekly payroll is over $20,000.
Art Valencia’s long day’s journey out of heroin addiction began when he was hired as a temporary staffer by one of Labor Connection’s first accounts, the Los Angeles law firm of Latham & Watkins. Valencia was so energized by his temp assignment preparing meeting rooms that he managed to land a full-time position at the firm as a clerical assistant. Now Valencia is well on his way to accomplishing his latest goal: to finish college with a degree in paralegal work.
Early successes such as Valencia’s do not come without occasional relapses, and Labor Connection keeps in touch with its clients to help them sort out new problems never faced before, like paying taxes—which seems an insignificant worry when compared to the task of getting a job in the first place.