“Houston, we have a problem.” This famous phrase came from the Commander of Apollo 13 when he let the world know that his spacecraft was unlikely to make it back to earth. What came next were a series of amazing feats, where some of the greatest minds in engineering, science, problem solving and management put their heads together and solved a seemingly unsolvable problem. Their efforts became a historic example of how extraordinary things could be done even against impossible odds. We need to call on the spirit of that effort, to meet the daunting challenges facing the Bay Area today.
We may have the lowest unemployment rate in years, but this economic miracle has not reached the people we serve at JobTrain. Counted among the employed are those who have to work at least 2 full time minimum wage jobs to live in our communities. A “middle income” family must make at least $33,600 to pay the average rent on a 2-bedroom apartment, yet the cut off for federal government support is $30,000. The land available to build affordable housing, develop basic services, and create local middle wage jobs is rapidly disappearing. Time is not on our side. Houston, we definitely have a problem.
When I came to JobTrain 18 months ago, many people said to me: we haven’t moved the needle; we’ve put in time and dollars for years but poverty is still with us. While this is true, they forget one important piece of the puzzle. What would it have been like if organizations like JobTrain hadn’t been here for the last 50 years? Thousands of people have gone on to new and better jobs because of JobTrain, with incalculable economic and social benefit to our community, their families and themselves.
As we celebrate together at our Breakfast of Champions, the JobTrain community, our very loyal supporters, friends and family can know they have made a very real difference for close to 200,000 people who have come through our doors or had access to our services. This includes the families of the people helped 50 years ago as well as today; generations of people who moved out of poverty.
But we are far from finished and we continue to have important and urgent work to do. Like the people in the control tower in Houston, we need our best and our brightest to take stock of all the resources we have to deal with this crisis. Now is not the time to either be defeated by the size of the problem or to declare victory. Let’s keep moving the needle, but keep in mind that time is growing short. Given the incredible work that the community that is JobTrain has done so far, I know we can succeed.