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
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.
With an Employment First Approach, Homeless Youth Find their Professional Passions & Meet their Goals
By Leiha Edmonds, Research and Policy Assistant, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity
On any given night, over 200 unaccompanied children and youth experience homelessness in Washington, D.C., and it’s likely that hundreds more are doubled up, couch surfing, or living in other unstable housing situations that puts them at risk of homelessness. Yet when Friendship Place, a leading D.C.-based homeless services organization, scanned the District’s available services, they realized youth and young people up to the age of 30 often weren’t getting all the help they needed to exit homelessness. Many of these young people also weren’t working or in school, and it was clear that helping these opportunity youth succeed in employment would play a key role in preventing and ending their homelessness. That’s why Friendship Place created its Before Thirty program, which works with youth and young adults experiencing or at risk of homelessness to help them get and keep jobs, move into stable housing, and meet their goals. This month, we chatted with Before Thirty’s Youth and Young Adults Specialist, Tiffini Jackson, about the importance of an “Employment First” approach for homeless jobseekers, the hidden face of youth homelessness, and helping youth find their professional passions.
By David T. Applegate, Research and Policy Assistant, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity
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.
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 Caitlin C. Schnur, Coordinator, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity
In preparation for an upcoming best practice guide on employment services for youth, we’ve spent the past few weeks in conversation with practitioners and program administrators in the field to gather and lift up their expertise in helping at-risk young job seekers succeed in employment. Recently, we sat down with Jamie Fountain, Associate Director of Workforce Development at Larkin Street Youth Services. Located in San Francisco, Larkin Street got its start in the 1980s serving bagged lunches to youth experiencing homelessness in San Francisco’s Polk Gulch neighborhood. Today, Larkin Street has 25 programs across 14 program sites and offers youth experiencing and at-risk of homelessness a comprehensive set of services including housing, medical care, and education and employment services via Larkin’s Hire Up program. While in Hire Up, youth can receive job readiness training, learn computer and technology skills, earn wages as part of supervised, entry-level work crew, and participate in paid internships with local businesses and organizations.
Larkin Street recognizes that youth’s success in employment is critical to its mission to “help kids get off the street for good.” In this conversation, Jamie talks about how “failure” yields innovation, the power of supportive relationships in helping youth get and keep jobs, and why it’s important to celebrate success along the journey to sustainable employment.