Mayor launches "Turnaround Houston" to aid hard to employ citizens

- When spreading the "prosperity" of a city is a centerpiece of your successful campaign - expectation among the "have nots" for aid runs high.

Today Mayor Sylvester Turner extended what some will see as an initial helping hand to what he called "hard to employee Houstonians", those who lack education, support or a record clean of criminal offenses.

"This is about going directly to where that individual is who may have given up and saying, not yet. We are not giving up on you," said Turner.

Turner calls "Turnaround Houston" a series of job resource fairs aimed at communities like Sunnyside where income and opportunity are often low while violence and despair, far too high.

Participants will have access to an array of services ranging from resume preparation to free tattoo removal - all aimed at lifting the chronically unemployed onto a payroll.

"Granted, it is the beginning, but if we don't start, we won't get there," said Turner.

There's no doubt Turner would like to do more, including valuable job training, but the city's serious budget crunch could push portions of a campaign priority to the back burner.

In the meantime, former gang member Angel Ponce says for those who are willing, the assistance Mayor Turner is bringing to the table can be transformative, one Houstonian at a time.

"I'm currently assisting not just gang members, but people with disabilities throughout the City of Houston," said Ponce.

But the Texas Organizing Project, which advocates for Houston's working poor, believes Turner's effort must extend beyond a half dozen resource fairs.

"We need city leadership to really take on bold pro-active initiatives that are going to expand the pool of quality jobs that pay family sustaining wages," said TOP's Laura Boston.

Turner had no estimate for the number of citizens the City would define as "hard to employ Houstonians", but did say the city is the top release point for Texas Department of Criminal Justice inmates.

The first Turnaround Houston job resource fair is set March 26 in Sunnyside and will continue in different neighborhoods every other month.      

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