October 23, 2012
When it comes to housing stability, stable employment is often a crucial component. While many people experiencing homelessness are employed in some capacity, many individuals within the homeless population face significant barriers to employment. These include lack of experience, physical or mental health issues, challenges related to re-entry from incarceration or hospitalization, and homelessness itself. Fortunately, practical tools are available to help individuals overcome these barriers.
For example, the National Transitional Jobs Network launched its Working to End Homelessness Initiative in 2011 “to shine a spotlight on the important role of employment solutions in addressing homelessness and to identify and disseminate promising employment practices.” The organization uses transitional jobs strategies to help employ people who face the greatest barriers to employment. The National Transitional Jobs Network has identified four reasons why transitional jobs are good for homeless assistance providers and communities:
- Transitional jobs help low-income people with barriers to employment enter the workforce, avoid re-incarceration, and reduce their reliance on public benefits;
- Transitional jobs programs strengthen communities through investments in workers;
- Transitional jobs programs help employers meet their goals; and
- Transitional jobs programs can yield significant cost savings for states.
While transitional jobs can reintegrate people experiencing homelessness back into the workforce, they are just one component of a larger strategy. Transitional jobs are short-term in nature, so the relationship between a homeless assistance provider and their clients should be long-term. In fact, for most clients, the relationship with provider staff, and the encouragement and support they receive are crucial to the client’s success in transitioning from short-term employment to permanent employment. Other supportive services are also critical to a client’s success, from transportation assistance, to mental health treatment, to social supports such as mentors and support groups.
For homeless assistance providers in communities that lack employment agencies or programs, the National Transitional Jobs Network website provides a wealth of resources for building a transitional jobs program. It also outlines strategies for working with different subpopulations experiencing homelessness. For homeless assistance providers in communities that do have employment agencies and other employment resources, collaborating with them not only makes financial sense, it frees up organizations so they can focus on their own areas of expertise.
Homeless assistance providers can also connect employment specialists with the resources offered by National Transitional Jobs Network, which can help specialists develop employment opportunities for different subpopulations experiencing homelessness. By working together, organizations can focus on their individual roles in helping to end homelessness.