The NTJN’s Working to End Homelessness Initiative

Nathan Dunlap, project lead for the NTJN’s Working to End Homelessness Initiative (WEH), is here to answer your questions about the project. Please join the discussion! You may also reach Nathan at or (312) 870-4958.

The WEH Initiative aims at identifying and advancing best practices and a federal policy agenda for workforce solutions to homelessness. To support these goals, the NTJN convened a community of practice with over 20 practitioners from 14 states, serving a variety of individuals experiencing homelessness through employment models such as Transitional Jobs, supported employment, job-readiness training, and social enterprise.

This month the community of practice convened in Chicago for the Working to End Homelessness Summit – a day of networking and peer learning where practitioners discussed their promising practices and systems challenges. The day-long dialogue provided a rich base of information to inform the NTJN’s best practice briefs and fuel our federal policy and systems change efforts.


About National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity

Heartland Alliance’s National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity is dedicated to ending chronic unemployment and poverty. We believe that every person deserves the opportunity to succeed in work and support themselves and their families. Through our field building, we provide support and guidance that fosters more effective and sustainable employment efforts. Our policy and advocacy work advances solutions to the systemic issues that drive chronic unemployment.

9 responses to “The NTJN’s Working to End Homelessness Initiative”

  1. Ali Mueller says :

    Hi Nathan-

    Which of the following two approaches is more effective/efficient at reducing homelessness: improving a homeless person’s preexisting circumstances first (i.e., substance abuse, mental health disorders, etc) or getting the person a job as soon as possible (which could theoretically alleviate the other obstacles)?

  2. transitionaljobs says :

    Thanks Ali, that’s a challenging question! The answer depends on who you ask. Most research on substance abuse and mental health disorders shows that opening employment opportunities as soon as the client is interested yields stronger outcomes. This “Individual Placement Support” model is generally coupled with comprehensive follow-along supports and counseling to help clients discover how to overcome barriers on-the-job. At the same time, individuals experiencing homelessness are diverse and do not always share the same barriers. For example, a young single mother with children may or may not need mental health or addiction counseling, but will likely benefit from life skills training and rental assistance. Whatever the individual path to self-sufficiency, it is essential that clients are treated as individuals and engaged in trusting and reflective relationships with program staff.

  3. transitionaljobs says :

    At the same time, this is a contested topic even among providers of addiction and mental health recovery. What do you other readers believe?

  4. Matt B. says :

    How do you think these ideas would work (or not) toward alleviating homelessness?

  5. transitionaljobs says :

    Interesting thoughts! Good to see people brainstorming about employment. Governments and community-based organizations actually do use direct job creation to some degree. For example, the Transitional Jobs strategy builds stepping stones to unsubsidized employment through subsidized, “time-limited, wage-paying jobs that combine real work, skill development, and supportive services.” Tax breaks and other subsidies play a role as well. For example, employers who hire individuals experiencing homelessness or reside in a housing program may take advantage of tax breaks or temporarily and partially subsidized wages. What are your ideas?

  6. John R. says :

    In response to the above comments, the following remarks from researchers may be of interest. Perhaps NTJN can post these and related citations.

    “Programs that work with homeless mentally ill persons may better serve their clients by placing as great an emphasis on providing employment services as on providing housing and clinical treatment.”
    — Judith A. Cook et al

    “Clearly LA’s HOPE achieved its two primary goals—housing chronically homeless single adults with disabilities and assisting them to enter employment. To this finding one may say, “Well of course, that’s what they were trying to do, so naturally their clients would look better on these outcomes than members of the comparison group.” To this response we say, “Exactly.”
    — Martha Burt

  7. transitionaljobs says :

    Thank you John! Two other useful remarks show the desire for work among individuals experiencing homelessness and the need for programs to support an array of individual choices.

    “Clients were asked to name the three things they needed most ‘right now’… Help finding a job was the most frequently cited need (42 percent).”
    — Martha Burt

    “Meeting people ‘’where they are at’ means that people should have
    options to engage in work even in the earlier stages of recovery… recognizing that people recovering from homelessness often need a slower entry ramp to jobs and can benefit from the ability to choose from an array of individualized options in addition to a ‘fast track’ into the competitive labor market.”
    — John Rio and Gary Shaheen

  8. Rachel Post says :

    Central City Concern has been using the Dartmouth IPS model for the last 3 years for homeless individuals with primary addiction disorders and a high prevalence of felony convictions. We address all the needs of the individuals together as an integrated service team of supportive housing case managers, addiction treatment counselors and a 1:25 employment specialist case ratio. Last year we placed over 300 individuals into jobs across 15 different sectors in 53 different zip codes. One of our SE programs recently scored in the exemplary range on the IPS fidelity scale, placing the performance of this team in the top 9th percentile of 88 sites across the country that are funded through Johnson and Johnson. The average wage earned, while not a livable wage, was $13.46 and hour. For more information check out the independent study summary for the years of 2007-2009 conducted by Heidi Herinckx, Assistant Director of the Regional Research Institute for Human Services Portland State University.
    Thanks for the great conversation! Rachel Post, Director of Supportive Housing and Employment, Central City Concern

  9. transitionaljobs says :

    Thank you Rachel, what a great program! To other service providers: How does your program assist jobseekers experiencing or recovering from homelessness?

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