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

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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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Zero Exclusion: Leave No Jobseeker Behind

By Chris Warland, Associate Director for Field Building, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity

Business people shaking hands in agreement

In order to operationalize our team’s belief that everyone who wants to work should have a job, we need to ensure that everyone who seeks employment services receives meaningful assistance.

But that doesn’t always happen.

All too often the people who are most in need of help in finding and keeping a job are the ones least likely to get that help. Instead, employment service providers may be unwilling or ill-equipped to serve jobseekers deemed “not ready” for work or “not motivated” to participate in programming. Or programs may have rules, policies, schedules, structures, or eligibility requirements that make it more difficult for jobseekers who face more barriers to access and remain in programming. For those of us committed to providing employment opportunities to every jobseeker, it is essential to identify and address all the ways in which people can be excluded from employment services.

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The ELEVATE Act Seeks to Reduce Barriers to Employment

By Melissa Young, Director, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity

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At 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 bold 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. That’s why we’re applauding Senator Wyden (D-OR) and Congressman Davis (D IL-13), who have introduced the Economic Ladders to End Volatility and Advance Training to Employment (ELEVATE) Act.

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