Veteran Del Seymour, once homeless for 18 years, is referred to as the “mayor of the Tenderloin.” For those not familiar with San Francisco’s neighborhoods, Tenderloin is known for its large population of chronically homeless residents — nearly 50 percent of San Francisco’s homeless population resides in the district that includes the Tenderloin.
Seymour is on a mission to better the lives of people who find themselves without housing in Tenderloin, as he did. After securing housing from the HUD-VASH program, Seymour founded Code Tenderloin, a nonprofit that offers web coding classes and teaches job readiness skills to those who may encounter barriers to employment, including people who were formerly incarcerated or are homeless.
During the Vietnam War, Seymour was drafted into the Army to serve on a medical evacuation team. He settled in Los Angeles when he returned, working as a paramedic and a firefighter. He did this all while running his own construction business.
After living in L.A. for a decade, Seymour moved to Oakland and eventually made his way into San Francisco. That last move drastically altered his life.
“Thirty-two years ago, I put a crack pipe in my mouth for an 18-second hit,” Seymour said, “and it took me 18 years to get that pipe out of my mouth.”
It was for those 18 years that Seymour was homeless.
In 2009, HUD-VASH social worker Glen Loutey was handed a list of potential candidates for the program, which provides Veterans with housing vouchers and supportive services.
“I was fortunate that Del was one of those Veterans,” he said.
The two have a friendship that extends beyond the confines of Loutey’s job — beyond his role in helping Seymour secure permanent housing. Loutey stayed in touch with Seymour when he left the program, working to help him meet both his professional and his personal goals. When Seymour met a milestone, Loutey was the first person he called.
“Glen was pivotal in giving me structure … [he] was my facilitator,” said Seymour. “Glen is a no-nonsense guy. If he challenges you to do something, he’ll move to the second step, to the third step — he keeps pushing you. What most Veterans don’t have is someone like Glen.”
With that support, and his own intense drive and determination, Seymour was able to get Code Tenderloin off the ground.
Since its inception in 2013, Code Tenderloin has helped 125 of its graduates find employment, most of them with jobs in the booming San Francisco technology industry. Supported by partnerships with big-name companies such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Dolby, and Google, Code Tenderloin is able to offer students free classes, taught by experts in the field.
Right now, Code Tenderloin offers classes at three campuses in San Francisco, but Seymour is working to expand the nonprofit to Oakland and then to Baltimore.
In addition to his work with Code Tenderloin, Seymour serves on the boards of several nonprofits and supports initiatives that combat homelessness in San Francisco. Click here to watch a video to learn more about what else Seymour does.
“Sometimes I can’t believe where I’m at right now — I just can’t believe I’m here,” Seymour said. “It’s so worth it and I try to get other Veterans to see. … The importance of the HUD-VASH voucher is underdescribed, but it takes more than that. Without [Glen’s] guidance and me holding onto his arm on my way up here, I wouldn’t have gotten here.”
If you or your organization is interested in making a difference for homeless Veterans, including hiring them, visit the VA Homeless Programs Office’s partnership page. Explore our community page and events page for even more ways you can get involved.
- Click here to learn more about Code Tenderloin and its mission.
- Visit VA’s website to learn about employment initiatives and other programs for Veterans exiting homelessness.
- Refer Veterans who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless to their local VA medical center, where VA staff are ready to assist, or urge them to call 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838).
About the Author: Danica Bogicevic has been a clinical social worker for over 19 years and has worked for VA for over 12 years. She is currently the VISN 21 network homeless coordinator, with responsibilities of coordinating VA homeless programs in seven VA health care systems across Northern and Central California, Nevada, Hawaii, and Guam. Her past experience has included working with active-duty military, Veterans, and their dependents. She has worked primarily in mental health and substance abuse treatment in hospitals and outpatient treatment clinics, and has also worked as a correctional social worker within a state prison system.