Why Zelda Saeli Raised Her Hand to Serve at a Hotel Site

Zelda Saeli’s career has been mission-driven through and through: to treat all with respect and dignity.

Saeli, Labor Relations Specialist for the SFPUC’s Workforce and Economic Programs, plays a vital role in connecting local residents with career building apprenticeship opportunities. “STEM occupations include the trades – an employment sector in which less than 3% of women make up the construction workforce,” said Saeli. “It is essential that we change the landscape of the trades industry. Here at the SFPUC, we are always working to strengthen the career pipelines that get more women and minorities on the construction job sites. I am proud to play a part in the work that is being done.”

As a public servant and a disaster service worker (DSW), stepping up and serving San Francisco was important to Saeli. She saw a need and knew she could help, so she raised her hand. “As long as there is a need and as long as I am able and willing to perform emergency work that does not interfere with my normal duties, I will.”

Zelda Saeli, SFPUC Labor Relations Specialist.

Since April 20, Saeli has temporarily stepped into a new role for four weeks: being a hotel site monitor to support the City’s most vulnerable. Her DSW assignment was being a Site Monitor at the Civic Center Motor Inn on 9th Street. There, she supported staff from the Episcopal Community Services, who were charged with relocating individuals experiencing homelessness at two of the City’s shelters off of the street.

“The experience helping out was rewarding because of the varied needs of those getting settled into the motel,” said Saeli. She shared some of the individuals she helped serve experienced addiction issues, dementia, and language barriers. “It’s important to treat everyone with dignity, that is what we are attempting by providing basic needs.”

Saeli shared that individuals were served three meals per day, given clean clothes, had access to laundry services, and had a safe place to sleep. Individuals also had access to daily onsite medical and behavioral health personnel. “It’s a good feeling to be able to assist even in small ways,” she said. “My normal responsibilities are rewarding – connecting residents to union construction work. In this role, it was similar in that I was helping to connect our most vulnerable to basic services that they need.”

Zelda Saeli, SFPUC Labor Relations Specialist (center), served as a disaster service worker at one of the hotel sites.

Although Saeli’s assignment as a hotel site monitor was hopeful and rewarding, it was not without its challenges. “It was challenging to remain productive while sheltering in place. Volunteering as a DSW provides hope to me and the folks with whom I work,” she said.

Saeli shared that even though her family has been able to stay healthy and safe, she knows that some of her colleagues have been impacted by COVID-19. Although she knows being in close proximity with a vulnerable population does not work for everyone during this pandemic, Saeli personally wanted to be useful to her community as long as she could protect herself. “I do not live in a fearful state of mind. I am proud of my family and coworkers who support me,” she shared.