A national network of funders supporting strategic, innovative, and effective solutions to homelessness

National Conference Focuses on Employment Solutions to Homelessness

More than 300 people from 33 states gathered at theNational Transitional Jobs Network Conference last month.

More than 300 people from 33 states gathered at our National Transitional Jobs Network (NTJN) Conference last month to discuss best practices in employment solutions for individuals facing employment barriers―including those experiencing or at risk for homelessness. Our conference featured four innovative community-based organizations from our Working to End Homelessness Community of Practice, which connects people experiencing or at risk of homelessness to work through diverse employment models, partnerships, and service structures. In addition, we featured three examples of cities where homeless and workforce systems are collaborating to leverage services and support pathways to employment for homeless job seekers.

Why did we highlight employment solutions to addressing homelessness?  

Employment is a critical tool that helps to restore dignity, hope; improve personal, financial, and family stability and well-being; and ultimately prevent and end homelessness.  We know that most people experiencing homelessness want to work. Individuals experiencing homelessness consistently rank paid employment alongside healthcare and housing as a primary need. We know that people experiencing homelessness have diverse strengths which can be leveraged and supported through employment, housing, and supportive services.

What are the core principles of experienced providers connecting homeless jobseekers to employment? 

Our Working to End Homelessness project identified seven principles in serving the employment needs of individuals experiencing homelessness, which were discussed in the context of each of the program models highlighted at our event: Rubicon ProgramsChrysalisDoe Fund, and Central City Concern.

 These providers discussed how their services:

1. Provide or leverage integrated housing and supportive services.

2. Recognize and consider a range of population-based strategies for providing services and supports.

3. Meet people where they are with employment program options that take into account individual strengths, needs, interests, and readiness to change.

4. Help facilitate the process of change through supportive staff relationships and employment counseling.

5. Consider a range of options and approaches to fostering work-readiness success.

6. Recognize and consider the relationship between experiencing homelessness and trauma in designing employment and service approaches.

7. Help individuals advance in employment opportunities through contextualized adult basic education, bridge programs and sector training or skill building.

How are homeless and workforce systems working together to support employment goals of individuals experiencing or at risk of homelessness? 

Our 2012 national conference featured representatives from three cities―Seattle, Miami, and Phoenix―who discussed their approaches to connecting homeless job seekers to employment. These cities are part of the Workforce Development Board of Seattle-King County – National Advisory Group supported by the Butler Family Fund to lift up homeless and workforce systems collaboration efforts to better support pathways to employment for homeless jobseekers.

Here’s a snapshot of the approaches they discussed:

  • Workforce Development Council Seattle-King County Committee to End Homelessness Building Changes:  Embedded employment in the Seattle Plan to End Homelessness and implemented an innovative homeless employment navigator system in order to enhance Workforce Investment Act services for homeless job seekers; use existing resources; and improve knowledge, communication, and collaboration between homeless and workforce systems.
  • Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust & South Florida Workforce:  Implemented Mobile Workforce Units throughout the county that are fully equipped with technology to travel to Homeless Assistance Centers, placed an employment counselor at each Homeless Assistance Center and converted government-owned surplus property into Permanent Supportive Housing, a 22-acre organic farm with a Farmer’s Market and on-the-job training.
  • Maricopa County Human Services Department & Central Arizona Shelter Services, Inc:  Convened the Maricopa Human Capital Collaborative around a regional vision for leveraging funds and providing workforce and human services, which drew on the capabilities of all members, developed a Human Services Campus to deliver continuum of care to homeless individuals and families.

There is still much to learn in advancing employment solutions for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.  We hope the momentum generated by the event leads to greater awareness and inclusion of employment solutions for individuals experiencing homelessness in local, state, and federal planning efforts; increased funding for providers serving homeless jobseekers; greater collaboration between homeless and workforce systems; and further interest in documenting and evaluating employment solutions to homelessness.

melissa_young_njtn.jpgMelissa Young is the Associate Director of the National Transitional Jobs Network (NTJN) at Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights




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