Nurturing a Movement: Launching the Pathways Forward Learning Forum

By Amelia Nawn (Graduate Student Intern) and Carrie Felton (NCEH Project Manager)

Our work in communities tells us—and research confirms—that people experiencing homelessness need to, want to, can, and do work. Despite this reality, far too few people experiencing homelessness are being connected to employment and income supports needed for housing stability.

Grounded in our belief that public systems must support all unstably housed people in obtaining employment and the income necessary for long-term housing stability, Heartland Alliance’s National Center on Employment and Homelessness is very excited to launch the Pathways Forward Learning Forum—a one-year community of practice that aims to catalyze and support stakeholders’ efforts to increase employment for homeless jobseekers in their communities. Participants in the Learning Forum will engage in a series of monthly interactive digital sessions with peers from across the country.

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Joint Statement from Federal Partners Identifies Opportunities to Advance Employment and Economic Opportunity for Homeless Jobseekers

Watch Our Webinar – Access to Economic Opportunity Helps End Homelessness: New Opportunities in the 2019 CoC Program NOFA

Today, the U.S. Department of Housing (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a joint statement identifying opportunities for the public workforce and homeless service systems to work together to advance employment and economic opportunity for people experiencing homelessness. The statement from the Departments is in response to HUD’s Fiscal Year 2019 Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for the homeless service system (the Continuum of Care Program), which identifies employment as a key strategy for ending homelessness and a top priority for communities.

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At Heartland Alliance, we believe that all people experiencing homelessness who want to work should be able to achieve employment and the income needed for long-term housing stability. Through the work of our National Center on Employment & Homelessness, we’ve advocated for the homeless service system to increase incentives for communities to prioritize connecting people experiencing homelessness to employment, training, and education opportunities.

“Through its stated policy priorities, HUD urges that CoCs and CoC-funded projects prioritize training and employment opportunities for people experiencing homelessness.

This is a strong and welcomed signal from HUD that they are seeking to fund community-wide commitments to promote income and employment as a part of preventing and ending homelessness.

No single public system can support pathways to employment and income for homeless jobseekers alone. Today’s joint statement by HUD and DOL reflects important and necessary federal cross-agency collaboration which can be a model for local communities nationwide.”

Melissa Young, Director, National Initiatives

That’s why we were excited to see that this year, HUD added a new employment-related policy priority to the 2019 Continuum of Care Program NOFA. HUD will award points to communities whose funding applications demonstrate strategies to increase access to employment, training, education, and earned income for people experiencing homelessness. We also applaud HUD and DOL for working together to share ideas for how communities can partner across systems to do this work effectively.

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Launching the Pathways Forward Challenge: Advancing Employment, Equity, and an End to Homelessness

Housing and income are inextricably linked.

Numerous studies find that increased income is a strong predictor of a person exiting homelessness and research tells us that individuals experiencing homelessness consistently rank paid employment alongside healthcare and housing as a primary need. When parents of families experiencing homelessness are asked to name one thing that would most help get their family back on its feet, the most common answer is employment. Over and over again, we find that those experiencing homelessness want to work and often are working already, but are not earning enough to keep a roof over their heads. So despite the fact that people experiencing homelessness want to, need to, and can work, far too few people experiencing homelessness are being connected to employment opportunities and income supports.

That is why, earlier this year, with the support of the Melville Charitable Trust and the Oak Foundation, Heartland Alliance introduced the Pathways Forward Challenge (PWFC) – a call to communities across the nation to create more effective and equitable pathways to employment for people experiencing homelessness through bold systems change and collaboration. Homelessness persists, in part, because public systems fail to connect all homeless jobseekers to equitable pathways to employment and the income necessary for long-term housing stability, and we hope the begin to change the system through our Pathways Forward Challenge.

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The Long-Term Unemployment Elimination Act: Creating Access to Employment, Equity & Opportunity

factory-factory-worker-girl-1108101At Heartland Alliance, we believe every person deserves the opportunity to succeed in work and support themselves and their families. For over two decades we’ve worked at the intersection of practice, policy, and research to advance solutions that ensure that everyone who wants to work has access to employment opportunities.

We know that the labor market excludes many people who want to work and who can and do work when offered employment opportunities and support. Even when the economy is healthy, millions of individuals struggle to get and keep work due to structural barriers that prevent access to employment and economic opportunity. This is why we’re pleased to see the introduction of the Long-Term Unemployment Elimination Act of 2019 by Senators Van Hollen (D-MD) and Wyden (D-OR).

This legislation would establish a national subsidized employment program for the long-term unemployed with a priority on high-poverty, high unemployment communities.

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Employers: Gatekeepers to Opportunity, Employment & Successful Reentry


Melissa Young, Quintin Williams, Lisa Hampton (Leaders Up), Miguel Cambray and Chris Warland at the Business Executives Association meeting in Chicago, IL.

By Melissa Young, Director of Heartland Alliance’s National Initiatives on Poverty and Economic Opportunity and Quintin Williams, Field Building Manager for Heartland Alliance’s National Initiatives on Poverty and Economic Opportunity

At Heartland Alliance, we see the unjust impacts that the overreach of the criminal justice system has in the lives of those we serve and millions of others across the country every day. In Illinois, nearly 5 million adults (nearly 50%) have an arrest or conviction record, which create substantial barriers to work, housing, and well-being.

The federal, state, and local laws restricting rights and opportunities for people with a criminal record create a tightly woven web of barriers. These “collateral consequences” of having a criminal record can affect nearly every aspect of a person’s life – often indefinitely. All told, there are over 48,000 collateral consequences etched in statute or regulation for people who have a criminal record across the United States.[i] In Illinois, there are nearly 1,500 constraints on rights, entitlements, and opportunities on the books for individuals with a criminal record, many of which deny or restrict access to employment opportunities.[ii]

These impacts show up during the search for housing, when many are denied a roof over their heads due to their records. It shows up in education, where many post-secondary schools outright deny access to enrollment for persons with a criminal record or individuals are discouraged from applying because they see a big, bold box asking about their criminal background. And it shows up, consistently, in access to employment. Individuals are denied occupational licenses, barred from entire occupations or fields of practice, and often can’t even get in the door for a job interview as a result of being justice involved.

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