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The Opening Doors Collaborative Aims to Increase Employment & Economic Opportunity Among Homeless Youth

By Caitlin C. Schnur, Coordinator, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity with Leiha Edmonds, Research and Policy Assistant, National Initiatives

2015-09-21 - Heading Home Hennepin_Via Heidi Boyd
Earlier this year, under our new National Center on Employment and Homelessness (NCEH) and with the generous support of the Oak Foundation and the Melville Charitable Trust, we selected five communities from across the country to be a part of the Connections Project. The Connections Project is a three-year, systems-level collaboration and capacity building project that aims to increase employment and economic opportunity for homeless job seekers. This fall, our five Connections Project Sites are launching their innovative systems collaboration ideas—and over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting their exciting work. First up is Minneapolis/Hennepin County’s Opening Doors Collaborative (ODC), our Connections Project Site that’s focused on improving employment access, outcomes, and program options for youth experiencing homelessness.

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Six Practices and Principles for Effective Employment Programming for Opportunity Youth

By David T. Applegate, Research and Policy Assistant, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity

Youth participants from Larkin Street Youth Services.

Photo courtesy of Larkin Street Youth Services.

There’s increasing national recognition that opportunity youth, or youth ages 16 to 24 years old who aren’t working or in school, can benefit substantially from gaining work experience but need help overcoming barriers to employment. Opportunity youth facing the most significant challenges—such as living in poverty, being involved in the justice system, or experiencing homelessness—often need the most intensive help to get and keep jobs, but are at risk of being left behind even by employment programs designed to help at-risk youth.

After digging into the research literature and conducting extensive interviews with opportunity youth employment providers across the country, we’ve just released a new toolkit and webinar about promising practices and principles for helping opportunity youth with the greatest barriers to employment succeed in the workforce. Here are the six promising practices and principles we’ve identified to guide employment programming for the most vulnerable opportunity youth.

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The Dovetail Project Helps Young Fathers Succeed in Employment

By James A. Jones, Field Engagement Coordinator, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity

June 2015 Class
This Father’s Day, as we honor the contributions of dads across the country, we’d like to highlight the needs of an often overlooked population: young fathers. Between 1990 and 2010, the teen pregnancy rate declined by 51 percent. However, that decline may have been even greater if there were an increase in efforts to engage young fathers. Traditionally, young mothers have been at the center of research, prevention, and assistance efforts. As a result, little is known about best practices in engaging young fathers. What we do know is that teen fathers are less likely than their peers to graduate from high school and subsequently face significant barriers to employment and economic stability.

The Dovetail Project is a Chicago-based organization whose sole mission is increasing employment opportunities and parenting skills of young, at-risk fathers. Sheldon Smith, founder of the Dovetail Project, started the organization to address an issue that shaped his life as well as countless other young men in his community: absent fathers. As the son of a young father, Sheldon endured his father’s absence and lack of financial and emotional support, the result of unemployment, incarceration, and no parenting skills. This left Sheldon with a burning desire to end the cycle of fatherless children when he became a dad at age 20. The National Initiatives team recently spoke with Sheldon about the Dovetail Project and the strategies he attributes to its success.

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Summer Jobs for Youth Reduce Violent Crime

By David T. Applegate, Research and Policy Assistant, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity

 SGA

It turns out that having a summer job can reduce violent crime among young people from highly disadvantaged neighborhoods—even more than a year after the summer job has ended. During the summer of 2012, Chicago’s One Summer Plus program offered eight weeks of subsidized, part-time summer employment, an adult job mentor, and—in some cases—a social emotional learning curriculum to youth with barriers to employment. An experimental study evaluating One Summer Plus found that over the next 16 months, violent crime arrests among youth who were offered summer jobs decreased by 43 percent compared to youth who weren’t.

By helping to implement One Summer Plus, SGA Youth & Family Services (SGA) has been central to Chicago’s efforts to curb violence and increase summer employment opportunities for the city’s vulnerable youth. SGA works in over forty communities across Chicago and offers a wide variety of services ranging from operating community health clinics to educational support and, of course, youth employment opportunities.

The National Initiatives team spoke with Jamie Roth, SGA’s Director of Workforce Development, to discuss the organization’s role in One Summer Plus and its broader work to combat poverty and bring hope and change to local communities across Chicago.

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Five Good Ideas to Combat Poverty in America

By David T. Applegate, Research and Policy Assistant, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity

AmyR_Edited

With midterm elections only a few weeks away, politicians are busy on the campaign trail talking to millions of Americans about our nation’s challenges and their plans for how to address them effectively. As candidates frame the issues, debate ideas, and seek to draw voters to the polls, we believe there’s one pressing issue that deserves to be on the top of the agenda: poverty.

The most recent poverty data show that 14.5 percent of Americans, or 45.3 million people, live in poverty. Nearly 20 million Americans are considered extremely poor which, for a family of three, means living on less than about $9,000 per year. Digging deeper into these numbers, nearly one in five children lives in poverty and as many as 6.5 million children live in families that are extremely poor. Hispanics and African-Americans represent 30 percent of the total population, but 52.5 percent of the population living in poverty.

We believe that every person deserves the opportunity to support themselves and their families and that no one should live in poverty. As we enter the final weeks of the 2014 election season, we have five anti-poverty strategies that we’d like to see candidates talking about—and taking action on once they’re in office.

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