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.
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.
By Caitlin C. Schnur, Policy Associate, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity
“On the workforce side, it’s terrifying when someone’s housing is unstable—how are they going to maintain their job search or keep their job? At the same time, for homeless services providers to really end homelessness, they need to help people meet their economic as well as housing goals. Both systems need each other.” –Nancy Phillips, Heartland Human Care Services, Inc., Chicago, IL
Employment success and housing stability go hand in hand. Although the public workforce and homelessness service systems both serve people experiencing homelessness and jobseekers experiencing housing instability, they don’t often work together. Systems collaboration is necessary to ensure clients can access stable housing, employment, and economic opportunities.
Our new report provides background about the structures, responsibilities, and funding of the workforce and homelessness service systems. Grounded in existing policy frameworks, our report gives actionable steps that stakeholders can take to enhance collaboration between their systems—and provides community-level examples where these ideas are underway.
Here are four takeaways:
#PathwaysForward: A National Convening Focused on Elevating & Advancing Employment to Prevent & End Homelessness
By Carrie Felton, Graduate Intern, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity
The event, Preventing & Ending Homelessness Through Employment: Lessons Learned & Pathways Forward (#PathwaysForward), was sponsored by Heartland Alliance’s National Center on Employment & Homelessness (NCEH), the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), and Funders Together to End Homelessness (FTEH) with support from the Melville Charitable Trust and Oak Foundation.
Baltimore’s Connections Project Applies a Racial Equity Lens to Economic Opportunity for Homeless Jobseekers
By: Kyle Pierce, Research and Policy Assistant, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity
To wrap up our Connections Project blog series, the National Initiatives team chatted with Hannah Roberts, who coordinates Baltimore’s Journey to Jobs project. Looking at homelessness through a racial equity lens, Journey to Jobs aims to increase economic opportunity for homeless jobseekers by tackling two barriers to employment that disproportionally impact people of color: criminal records and child support payments. In our conversation, Hannah shares how she’s working with Baltimore’s Connections Project team to develop savvy partnerships, gather data, and shape system-wide collaboration to expand employment and economic opportunity for Baltimore’s homeless jobseekers.