New Initiative Aims to Teach Hardware Skills to the Homeless
BY Laura Montini
A formerly homeless entrepreneur wants to employ and teach other people who have fallen on hard times.
Those who have recently protested the lack of affordable housing in San Francisco, which some blame on the influx of tech companies to the area, have raised a potent question: what, if anything, should successful companies be giving back to the communities in which they're based?
Though that question could be debated endlessly, one man has already answered it for himself. Marc Roth, who was a homeless man in San Francisco until 2011, now owns a laser cutting business and is looking to employ people from the homeless community.
Roth also has just launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise money for a new non-profit education program called the Learning Shelter, which will give homeless people the skills they need to build hardware and hopefully find jobs at startups thereafter.
"Getting people into the shelter is pretty simple. We're going to go out and we're going to source people who need new skills," Roth said in a campaign video. "Everything from 3D printing to making t-shirts."
Here's how the program will work: four students will be given accommodations for 90 days. Each will spend 30 days working on a core curriculum and 60 days working on their own track, VentureBeat reported. They will also have a free membership at TechShop, the San Francisco-based do-it-yourself workshop where Roth picked up the skills he used to start his business. Roth is looking for $60,000 to be able to run four students through the inaugural class.
So could this approach actually work for its students? The non-profit Palo Alto-based research center Institute for The Future and non-profit talent matcher ReAllocate are betting it will. These groups, along with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, have publicly supported the project. In fact, other policy makers have been so interested in Roth's ideas that he was invited to Washington, D.C., to advise a group of city mayors on homelessness issues.
As Roth pointed out, the idea has already helped get one homeless person back into the workforce. Now he wants to see if it can work for more.
LAURA MONTINI is a reporter at Inc. She previously covered health care technology for Health 2.0 News and has served as an associate editor at The Health Care Blog. She lives in San Francisco. @lmmontini