Seattle/King County’s Connections Project is Already Seeing the Benefits of Connecting Housing and Employment
By Leiha Edmonds, Research and Policy Assistant, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity
For our first Connections Project post of the New Year, we’re pleased to introduce Seattle/King County’s Home & Work. As part of our blog series highlighting our National Center on Employment and Homelessness’ Connections Project, this month we’re talking with Home & Work’s Nick Codd, Associate Director of Building Changes, about seeing exciting results when it comes to connecting employment and housing. From employment navigators to expanding flexible funding to address homelessness, we discuss what’s in store for their Connections Project in 2016.
National Initiatives: Home & Work’s Connections Project builds off of the success of Seattle’s employment and housing navigator model. To start, can you give us some background on the navigator model, and how it informs Home & Work’s approach?
Nick Codd: Since 2010, Seattle/King County area has been working on cross-systems collaboration between the workforce and housing world by piloting an employment and housing navigator model. The navigator works with housing providers to help people experiencing homelessness not only access housing but also find mainstream employment. Because we’re already working to bring together the two systems through the navigator model, our Connections Project builds off this approach so we can enhance it to support workforce and homeless services coordination across King County.
National Initiatives: How will Home & Work increase this cross-systems collaboration between the workforce and housing worlds?
Nick Codd: Home & Work is focused on three big ideas for ensuring people experiencing homelessness can access housing and income:
- Knowing what employment and training resources are available in Seattle/King County.
- Asking individuals experiencing homelessness about their income needs at the beginning of the housing services process.
- Connecting people to the right resources to support their employment or income goals.
We know that people are more likely to remain housed when they have access to income so our goal is to help more people stay housed and find employment.
National Initiatives: Are there any new program models or policy initiatives that you see shaping the field in the near future?
Nick Codd: Seattle/King County is just finishing a pilot program that paired Rapid Re-Housing with our employment navigator model. Families experiencing homeless were returned to housing as quickly as possible, and they were also connected with a navigator that helped them become employed so that they can maintain that housing. Over the two years, we found that 60 percent of families became employed at an average hourly wage of $12 hour. We hope this percentage and wage will increase as more families go through the program, but overall these data show that the intentional connection between housing and employment services is beneficial in addressing homelessness.
National Initiatives: Seattle’s Mayor along with Dow Constantine, King County Commissioner, recently declared a state of emergency around homelessness – do you see employment being used as part of the solution to address the issue of homelessness in the city?
Nick Codd: The declaration resulted in homeless services receiving greater funding and attention. We’ve found that the expansion of flexible funds often connect with employment and are crucial to resolving a person’s housing needs. Flexible funds can go toward repairing someone’s car so they can get back to work, helping someone pay for child care, or helping to cover the bills for someone transitioning from TANF to employment before they receive their first pay check. You can really see how the funds are tailored to participants’ needs and help someone on the brink of losing their home get back on track.
National Initiatives: 2016 just began. What’s Home & Work excited to work on in the New Year?
Nick Codd: We’re starting the year working on addressing career pathways. Homeless jobseekers need careers that get them a living wage, not just an income. Seattle is an increasingly expensive place to live and returning to homelessness is less likely when people have jobs that pay well with quality benefits. This January, we’ve been working with local businesses and workforce boards to make sure that our assessment of available resources for jobseekers prioritizes access to living wage jobs.
See how your community can use our new resource, Community Asset Mapping: Questions to Assess Workforce Services, Supports, and Service Gaps