Connections Project Draws Teams of Innovators to D.C. to Advance Employment Solutions to Homelessness
By Carl Wiley, Coordinator, National Center on Employment and Homelessness (NCEH)
At the beginning of April, and with the generous support of the Oak Foundation and the Melville Charitable Trust, Heartland Alliance’s National Initiatives team and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) co-hosted the Working to End Homelessness (WEH) Innovation Workshop in Washington, D.C. Our event brought together 10 Connections Project Finalist Teams from communities all across the country as they built partnerships and fine-tuned innovative ideas to connect homeless jobseekers to employment and greater economic opportunity. The Connections Project is a three year, place-based, systems-level collaboration and capacity-building project that aims to increase employment and economic opportunity for homeless jobseekers. The Workshop was energizing and constructive—and here’s a look at the highlights and takeaways.
On a single night, over 600,000 Americans experience homelessness. People experiencing homelessness consistently name paid employment as one of their primary needs, alongside housing and healthcare. Recognizing the important role of employment in helping to prevent and end homelessness, the Oak Foundation and the Melville Charitable Trust have joined with Heartland Alliance’s National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity to launch the National Center on Employment and Homelessness (NCEH).
NCEH seeks to ensure that everyone who wants to work, regardless of the barriers they face, has the support and opportunities to reach that goal, and will work across programs, systems, and policies to ensure that homeless jobseekers have the support and services needed to succeed in employment. One of NCEH’s flagship efforts will be the Connections Project, a three year, place-based, systems-level collaboration and capacity-building project focused on increasing employment and economic opportunity for homeless jobseekers.
To coordinate the NCEH, our team is happy to welcome back Carl Wiley, who previously worked as a graduate student intern with Heartland’s Policy and Advocacy team. Carl recently received his Masters in Social Work from the Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and he has extensive experience working directly with populations experiencing homelessness including with youth at Heartland’s Neon Street Dorms.
Carl recently took a break from his busy schedule to share a bit about what NCEH has planned and why he thinks it is important to address the employment needs of people experiencing homelessness.
By James Jones, B.MORE Initiative Coordinator, NTJN
“Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives, we are reminded today that family is the most important. And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation. They are teachers and coaches. They are mentors and role models. They are examples of success and the men who constantly push us toward it.” – President Barack Obama (Father’s Day 2008)
This Father’s Day, we reflected on the selfless efforts of dads all across the country. Fathers play a unique and important role in the lives of their children, spouses, and co-parents. That role, however, can be undermined by stereotypes that relegate the breadth of a father’s contributions solely to provider or family breadwinner—stereotypes that have helped drive policies that marginalize low-income men who are unable to financially support their children and families.
In particular, low-income, noncustodial African American men are often depicted as dead beat dads—a negative narrative that is not supported by any empirical evidence. The reality is that low-income African American men are often penalized by a web of child support policies and enforcement practices that were designed to collect revenue from noncustodial parents who were financially able, yet sometimes unwilling, to help support their families. The impact of these “one-size-fits-all” policies is that families at the lowest end of the income spectrum tend to suffer severely.
In keeping with states like Missouri, Kansas, Indiana, Wisconsin and others, we encourage state child support enforcement agencies and entities serving low-income noncustodial fathers to implement innovative policies that help fathers meet their obligations while meeting their own basic needs, and help lift families out of poverty by helping parents succeed in employment. This blog takes a longer look at states that are doing just that—and provides policy recommendations that we hope will help spur innovation in a greater number of states. Read More…