Rubicon to Take Over for Jobs Consortium for Homeless: By MATTHEW ARTZ

Tuesday November 02, 2004

One of the largest homeless service providers in the Bay Area is slated to take over a jobs training program in Berkeley after the current provider ran afoul of federal regulators. 

Rubicon Programs Inc., a nonprofit based in Richmond, is scheduled to take over an office at 2801 Telegraph Ave., where the Jobs Consortium for the Homeless has conducted business since 1988. 

In July, the Department of Housing and Urban Development froze funding to the Jobs Consortium after a department review determined that the nonprofit owned HUD $1.2 million for already expended grant funds which were supposed to have been matched with local cash contributions equaling 25 percent of the total. A HUD review last July determined that the organization had instead accounted for nearly 70 percent of the required match with in-kind services provided by a local union. HUD has disqualified grants for prior years and is now demanding reimbursement from the Jobs Consortium. 

With the HUD sanction driving the Jobs Consortium to the brink of collapse, the city has been negotiating with HUD to bring Rubicon to Berkeley. The goal is to retain HUD funding of approximately $1 million per year which has paid 75 percent of the costs for the job training program.  

Earlier this month the City Council voted unanimously to transfer the city’s $19,000 share of the cash match for the grant from the Jobs Consortium to Rubicon. 

Rubicon Deputy Director Jane Fischberg said the move to Berkeley “seemed like a sensible expansion” since the nonprofit already served homeless people in Alameda County. She refused to speculate on the services Rubicon planned to offer until the deal to bring them to Berkeley was final. In addition to providing services for the homeless, Rubicon is also an affordable housing developer. 

In order to pave the way for Rubicon, the city must keep the Jobs Consortium afloat until it can repay the $1.2 million. As a condition of transferring the grant to Rubicon, HUD is demanding to be paid back in full by the Jobs Consortium, said Berkeley Community Services Specialist Jane Micallef. 

Already, Berkeley and Alameda County have spent a combined $150,000 to sustain the Jobs Consortium through next June, when it is scheduled to receive the second and final installment of a $1.5 million payout from the Port of Oakland Army Base Reuse Authority. 

The money is part of a multi-million dollar relocation compensation package for social service providers on the base, which is slated for retail and residential development. 

If the Jobs Consortium can survive until it receives payment for removal of its job training center on the army base, Micallef said it could repay its debts, and then likely disband. 

“The organization has really toppled under the pressure,” she said.  

Representatives of the Jobs Consortium did not respond to telephone calls for this story. Many of the Jobs Consortium’s top officers, including its longtime executive director Michael Daniels, have departed, Micallef said.  

The organization is currently being run by a consultant, Paul Leonard, a former HUD official. 

Without money from HUD, the Jobs Consortium has ceased its jobs training programs, but still manages the Haste Street House, a Berkeley affordable housing development owned by the Northern California Land Trust. 

Before HUD cut off funding, the Jobs Consortium, which had served between 700 and 800 Oakland and Berkeley residents a year, ran job training programs in construction work, asbestos abatement, janitorial work and food service. 

Rubicon’s job training services have traditionally specialized in assisting people with mental disabilities and has sent graduates to work jobs in health care, biotechnology, construction and transportation fields, Fischberg said. The group also runs a landscaping business and a bakery that employees graduates of its training program. 

Started in 1973, Rubicon has an extensive list of corporate and foundation partners that Micallef said would enable it to meet HUD’s grant requirements.