Richard Gosnell always dreamed of becoming a carpenter, just like his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. But after his dad died when Gosnell was 6 and he “made a mistake” in his youth, Gosnell served nine years in prison.
Assuming his dreams were over, but not wanting to disappoint his family, Gosnell prepared in February 2016 to leave the prison system — with no work experience — guided only by a book about staying out of prison.
He was referred to Treasure Island Homeless Development Initiative (TIHDI), a nonprofit focused on eliminating barriers for low-income or formerly homeless individuals and families. Through TIHDI’s Construction Jobs and Economic Self Sufficiency Program, Gosnell was able to attend employment coaching sessions, workshops about financial literacy, and construction orientation. “Growing up, I didn’t have people to teach me how to balance a checkbook or get a job,” he said. “These are the things they teach you at TIHDI.”
In 2016, Wells Fargo sponsored TIHDI’s application for the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco’s Access to Housing and Economic Assistance for Development, or AHEAD, grant program. As a result, TIHDI received a $20,000 AHEAD grant to support its Construction Jobs and Economic Self Sufficiency Program. The nonprofit was one of four that Wells Fargo sponsored for grants that year.
AHEAD grant recipients
Wells Fargo is a member of the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, which in 2016 awarded $1.5 million in AHEAD grants, through its members, to 51 “innovative economic development projects and housing initiatives.”
The four initiatives, including TIHDI, that were sponsored by Wells Fargo received AHEAD grants totaling $90,000. “Our ultimate goal is to move people out of poverty by introducing them to the trades and providing tools,” said Sherry Williams, executive director of TIHDI. “The San Francisco Bay Area has experienced an economic boom because of the tech industry, but there is a whole population of folks not in the tech industry, and it’s driven up the cost of living. To afford to stay here, you need to have a certain level of income. We are located at a former military base and expect hundreds of local construction job openings over the next few years. We’ve been trying to prepare a workforce for that, and this program will help us accomplish that.”
In addition to TIHDI’s program, the Nevada Youth Empowerment Project received $20,000 to provide housing and services for female at-risk teenagers in its independent living program; Tucson Urban league, Inc., received $30,000 to hire a career coach to help unemployed youth achieve their educational and career goals; and Beacon Group in Tucson, Arizona, received $20,000 to help individuals with disabilities find jobs through training, counseling, and employment referrals.
“We are proud to support Wells Fargo’s commitment to job creation and economic development in low-income communities,” said Marietta Núñez, vice president and director of Community Lending for the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco. “The funded projects are designed to address local community needs in different, specifically targeted ways. All of these initiatives will have a meaningful impact on low-income communities across the Federal Home Loan Bank’s three-state district of Arizona, California, and Nevada.”
‘It gives people like me a way out’
Gosnell has seen firsthand the impact TIHDI’s Construction Jobs and Economic Self Sufficiency Program has on people. “Programs like this deserve all of the support they can get,” Gosnell said. “They invest everything they have in people like me.”
Struggling with not earning an income, Gosnell was encouraged by people like Alex Francois, employment program manager for TIHDI. “Alex pushed me to get my driver’s license reinstated. He told me, ‘You don’t have to give up on your dream.’ He pushed me and gave me advice on the construction industry.”
Gosnell has since earned his OSHA 10 certification and landed a job as a carpenter in San Francisco, following in the footsteps of his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. He said the most rewarding part was calling Francois to tell him the news about his job.
“I could tell he was proud of me,” Gosnell said. “This experience has meant everything for someone like me, who grew up with nothing. It gives people like me a way out without committing crime. It’s a way to build a life, not just for ourselves, but for our families.”