NAACP representatives have accused HomeFirst of racially profiling employees and voiced their anger in front of the homeless service provider’s headquarters.
The allegations include displaying photos of former Black employees in a handbook “like criminal mugshots,” rescheduling Black employees who needed child care and recently firing a Black employee who is now facing homelessness himself due to the termination.
“It’s a travesty that these people get county money to help people that help the homeless, but treat those who care about the homeless the most, the worst,” Rev. Jethroe Moore II, president of NAACP San Jose/Silicon Valley, said at a Wednesday rally outside HomeFirst’s headquarters in Milpitas. “So how can you say you’re helping the homeless when you can’t even treat your employees better and you allow them to face homelessness themselves?”
HomeFirst spokesperson Lori Smith said in a statement that the nonprofit takes these discrimination allegations “very seriously” and that the nonprofit couldn’t speak about specific cases for legal and privacy reasons. She said staff departures are a result of a variety of factors, such as job performance or internal restructuring.
“We recognize that diversity and lived experiences in our workforce are essential for promoting an inclusive environment and enhancing our ability to fulfill our mission effectively,” Smith said.
In a letter delivered to the Sunnyvale Family Shelter, operated by HomeFirst, Moore alleges that Black employees have been wrongfully terminated at the shelter. A group of dissenters, including Moore and four former employees, gathered in front of HomeFirst’s office in Milpitas today to air grievances about alleged mistreatment and discrimination. Moore said they are asking the state auditor to investigate the terminations.
“It’s a growing concern for Black people in the county, that Black people tend to get fired quite frequently and find a hard time holding on to jobs in the valley,” Moore told San José Spotlight.
This is not the first time concerns about HomeFirst have cropped up. San Jose officials have questioned HomeFirst’s outreach efforts, with only 8% of participants relocated into permanent housing last year. Last week, the Sunnyvale City Council voted to not renew an annual contract with the nonprofit for outreach services and reserved shelter beds located in San Jose, citing the reserved beds’ distance as a barrier to access.
Moore said he’s talking with lawyers about next steps for the terminated employees and that they would explore “whatever means necessary to make things right.”
Anntonette Flowers worked at the shelter for almost three years, but was terminated about two years ago for allegedly yelling at a client. Flowers was told there was footage and audio recordings of the incident, but she said shelter policy prohibited recording either.
“When I heard what happened to my coworkers … I had to get on board. Because I’m still bitter of what happened to me because I still don’t know what happened to me,” Flowers told San José Spotlight.
Flowers said she loved her job and would consider returning if offered.Sunnyvale Shelter NAACP Letter