"My wife and I were the original opponents for having the Day Worker Center move into the neighborhood," said Escuela Avenue resident Vince Raciti. "They have been good neighbors. I haven't had any problems."
Zoning Administrative Peter Gilli approved the request April 25 to extend daily operating hours by four hours on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to allow classes to be taught at the center until 9 p.m. Workers there currently learn English and job skills such as sewing, and volunteer teachers and workers will have an easier time making it after regular business hours, said director Maria Marroquin.
Gilli also approved a request to hold four garage sales a year, allowing the center to raise funds by selling donated goods.
City planner Nancy Minicucci said that the center's operating permit has been reviewed quarterly since it was first approved in late 2011, and "city staff has not received any negative input from the community."
"I think it is very telling that after the first year of operation nobody in the audience has any complaint about the Day Worker Center," said Gilli. "That is very positive."
There were a few minor concerns, however. Raciti mentioned seeing a few people loitering in front of the center on Sundays, and another neighbor said the smell of cooking in the kitchen could be pretty strong. Gilli said police could make the center a regular patrol location on Sundays to deal with the loitering.
Gilli approved the request on the condition that the nighttime hours would not be used for employee placement.
The Center is also in the midst of a three-month jobs drive.
"The workers at the Center are extremely under-employed and can barely get by financially," said Craig Sherod in an email pitch for the drive. "A worker who comes to the Center daily is likely to receive eight hours of work a week, and at $12 an hour, that works out to less than $500 a month. Rent is typically $300 a month so you can see what I mean by 'barely getting by.' And for workers who have loved ones back home needing support too, that's clearly impossible with the current number of jobs at the Center."
The goal of the drive is to increase the number of jobs by 50 percent between April 15 and July 15.
"Currently, we have about 60 to 70 workers a day vying for about 20 to 25 jobs a day at the Center," Sherod wrote. "That means we need an additional 10 to 12 jobs a day at the Center."
The Center is asking the community to help in a variety of ways, not just by hiring workers to do a project, but also to spread the word by arranging speaking opportunities for the workers or by posting testimonials on Yelp and neighborhood email lists. Sherod adds that there are many types of "piece work" that can be dropped off at the center, such as envelope stuffing, sewing and upholstery.