Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 13 / 29 March 2018

Jobs program at sober space sees 5 graduate


Castro Country Club job graduates and program staff gathered August 30 and include, from left, Joseph Ramirez-Forcier, managing director of employment services at Positive Resource Center; Justin Penn Dauterman, vice chair, Castro Country Club Advisory Board; Billy Allen, employment specialist, PRC; Billy Lemon, executive director, Castro Country Club; bottom row, from left, graduates Michael Scarce, Troix Boyd, and Tomas Llorence. Photo: Sari Staver
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Thanks to a new program sponsored by the Castro Country Club, the home to the LGBT recovery community, five gay men have completed a six-month employment training program aimed at helping them re-enter the work force.

Three of the five – Michael Scarce, Troix Boyd, and Tomas Llorence – have started full-time jobs, they announced at a celebration Wednesday, August 30 at the country club at 4058 18th Street. The other two graduates – Brian Linn and Joel Hill – were unable to attend due to scheduling at their new jobs.

Another 12 people are expected to enroll in the program over the next year, country club Executive Director Billy Lemon said in an interview with the Bay Area Reporter. Lemon said the initial funding of $20,000 came from a grant by the office of gay former District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener (now a state senator). Gay current District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy has continued the funding for two more years at $20,000 per year.

Co-sponsored by Positive Resource Center, a nonprofit that provides benefits counseling and employment services to people living with or at risk for HIV and other illnesses, Joe Ramirez-Forcier, PRC's managing director of employment services, said that the agency provides participants with assistance in career navigation and job searches.

"This is by far the best program partnership we have ever had," said Ramirez-Forcier. "It is changing peoples lives."

Following a barista training program at the country club, participants can take an eight-week computer training program, which includes learning Microsoft's Office, Excel, and PowerPoint programs. They can also get employment services such as resume writing and interview skills.

"Digital literacy is a job changer," said Ramirez-Fortier. "It can take you from a $15 an hour job to one that pays $19-22 an hour."

In addition to often needing formal training, Ramirez-Forcier said people in early recovery often need to expand their networks, which can be how one hears about job opportunities.

"People who have been addicted may have wound up with an incredibly tiny network," of friends, he said.

Speaking at the graduation ceremony at the country club, Boyd thanked Lemon for his ongoing support.

"You always had my back and you helped me enormously to believe in myself," said Boyd.

After finishing the employment training, Boyd got a 40-hour-a-week job at Cliff's Variety, where he splits his time between its two stores.

"I love it," Boyd said of his new job. "I am happy to have found a job with such wonderful people."

According to Lemon, "One of the greatest challenges for people in early recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction is simply learning how to live, work, and socialize without drugs or alcohol.

"The Castro Country Club, since its inception in 1983, has recognized that helping individuals maintain a program of abstinence is inherently tied to decreased risks of new HIV infections – especially among gay and bisexual men – and promotes productive, healthy lifestyles for those living with HIV."

Developing employment skills is a valuable component of a person's long-term success in recovery, said Lemon, who has been clean and sober for four years.

"By providing a safe, supportive, stigma-free environment, the country club offers a unique venue for jobs training and skills development for individuals in recovery," he added.

"Having access to a community of peer support is essential to recovery from chronic drug and alcohol addiction," Lemon said. Both the structured style of 12-step, and other recovery-focused meetings, and the unstructured social setting create spaces where people in recovery can find safe and meaningful connections to help them live clean and sober lives.

The country club is "more than just a place to receive job-training skills," said Lemon. "It is a home away from home that welcomes and celebrates all cultures, lifestyles, and backgrounds and is open to anyone seeking refuge from the bar culture or an alternative to active addiction."

Long term, Lemon said the club hopes to expand the program into partnerships with other organizations providing recovery services and start new people in the program every three months.

By providing a structured program of job training and placement, the country club believes it can also help those living with HIV "develop a structure of life skills," Lemon said, that will help them to better manage and comply with their HIV treatment regimen, regularly access ongoing medical treatment, and take responsibility for their lives.



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