Ink removal increases confidence

‘Removing Barriers’ clinic erases unwanted tattoos, burdens

By Van Ly, Opinion Editor

A tattoo can be a mark of the past that is hard to forget.

But there is a chance to erase the needled-ink and start over once again.

In partnership with the San Pablo Economic Development Corporation and New Skin Adult Tattoo Removal, Removing Barriers is a non-profit program that provides tattoo removal and multi-purpose job readiness.

Often times, tattoos can become a barrier in community re-entry, safety or employment.

The clinic operates on a monthly basis, every third Saturday from 8 a.m.-noon. The cost of removal is $50 for San Pablo residents and $80 for non-residents.

Tattoo removals can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. At health organizations like Kaiser Permanente, the cost of just turning on the machine can cost $200, but SPEDC makes the cost of tattoo removal affordable for less economically privileged populations.

“It’s called ‘Removing Barriers’ because a lot of people in the community have tattoos for one reason or another — afflictions, relationships, sometimes even abuse. It’s an opportunity to start fresh,” volunteer Raynato Castro said.

Once the tattoo removal process begins, program participants are given the opportunity to remove employment barriers through an intensive two-week job readiness program. The training covers financial literacy and soft-skills to help with interviews, resumés, online profiles and much more.

In order to qualify, participants must be willing to attend a mandatory information session and pay a $50 registration fee, which will be reimbursed based on accountability.

“The city of San Pablo believes in economic opportunity for residents. Our whole aim is to make it free for people. All you have to do is show up and do what you’re supposed to do and you will get the fee back,” SPEDC General Manager Leslay Choy said.

But most of all, participants must be willing to commit to the program, she said.

Participants must be available from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. in the two-week span. Only one excused absence is allowed.

Unexcused absences will result in the participant’s removal from the program, but the participant will be able to apply for the next available two-week session if proper guidelines are followed.

In terms of tattoos, the inked markings on a person’s skin can affect a person’s interior.

“My tattoos are prison tattoos,” participant Matthew Carbajal told San Pablo’s fall quarterly publication of El Portal — the Gateway.
When a co-worker of Carbajal noticed his tattoos, he said he did not feel offended.

“Instead I felt sad and ashamed because I was recognized as a quintessential felon,” Carbajal said.

Choy said, “We’re not against tattoos. We’re making sure any barriers or safe community re-entry — or anything affecting self-confidence — are gone.”

Because of the process of removing his tattoos, Carbajal said he is able to let go and start a new life. He is now in his final year at Golden Gate University studying business administration.

In the future, Choy hopes SPEDC will be able to serve more people, offer more job-readiness cohorts per year and extend clinic hours, or even add a second clinic.

The clinic is located at 13830 San Pablo Avenue, Suite D, San Pablo, CA 94806.

To schedule an appointment or for more information, call 510-215-3189.
The next clinic dates are Oct. 18, Nov. 15 and Dec. 20.