Abrehet Seifu and her husband walked into the HTA’s office at Virginia Avenue Park in Santa Monica in September of 2016. Her husband, who is a current City of Santa Monica maintenance worker responsible for beach sanitation, had heard mention of the program. It wasn’t, however, until he saw a flyer about the HTA posted in the building where he lives that he encouraged his wife, Abrehet, to reach out to us for services.
During one of the HTA’s initial meetings with the couple, they shared that Abrehet had been a victim of human trafficking by a relative in New York who brought her there from Ethiopia and forced her to work in virtual slavery, caring for the family’s children. In 2008, she was able to get away and eventually made her way to California. She now lives in Santa Monica’s Pico Neighborhood in a Community Corporation of Santa Monica (CCSM) affordable housing unit with her husband and her four children, who range in age from 1 to 7 years old.
Abrehet’s formal education stopped at the 8th grade and her English language skills, although progressively getting better, were extremely limited at the time when she first came to the HTA. In addition, as the majority of Abrehet’s time, up until now, had solely been spent caring for her children, she had little to no understanding of the American labor market. Despite all of this, she was extremely determined to do whatever she could to find employment right away, as her family greatly needed the supplemental income this would bring. Knowing this, Abrehet’s HTA case managers made immediate plans to assist her. This included helping her apply for local entry-level jobs that would allow her to gain work experience and build her resume. While this approach did lead to a few companies expressing some initial interest in her, Abrehet was having difficulty ever making it beyond the interview stage. Not one to be deterred, the longer Abrehet searched for a job, the stronger her resolve to succeed grew. Continuing to work with her Case Manager she was assisted in submitting an application for a Room Attendant to a new hotel, the Courtyard Santa Monica, that was scheduled to open in 2017. As the HTA was aware that this hotel was willing to consider hiring people with little-to-no experience in the industry, program staff knew this would be a perfect opportunity for Abrehet. An application was immediately submitted, and staff began working intensively with her to hone her interviewing skills. Our hard work paid off, as in early January 2017, was called into interview and offered a job on the spot. She is now working at the hotel, as a part-time Room Attendant, and is overjoyed to be bringing in some much needed extra income for her family. Further, as the workers at the hotel have voted to unionize, Abrehet is now a member of UNITE HERE Local 11 and, therefore, able to access the full support and benefits that come with union membership.