From homeless to employed: Two programs show promise

For homeless individuals who seek employment, the barriers are high. While many struggle with mental health, substance abuse, or a criminal record, even more lack basic job-seeking requirements, such as a permanent address, a resume, and bathing facilities. By understanding their challenges, cities are creating more responsive programs to help homeless people achieve gainful employment.

Instead of citing panhandlers, Albuquerque, N.M., is finding them jobs (Huffington Post). “There’s a Better Way” is a city program that picks up panhandlers who want to work and drives them to temporary jobs around the city. Participants help with city beautification efforts, such as weed and litter removal, and are paid $9 an hour in cash.

“Often [when] we talk about employment, we use one model. It’s called full-time employment,” said Father Rusty Smith of program partner St. Martin’s Hospitality Center. “If you’re dealing with mental health issues, often working one or three days a week is all you can do.”

So far, the program has provided 932 temporary jobs, and 100 individuals have moved on to permanent employment.

In San Francisco, the tech industry has created incredible wealth, but the vast majority of employment opportunities in the region’s core industry are limited to highly skilled workers. To alleviate this imbalance, community leaders are providing opportunity on the other end of the job spectrum for the city’s 6,680-plus homeless. A retailer, the police, and workforce development specialists have teamed up to create a job fair geared specifically toward the homeless and other marginalized residents (Next City). Hosted by The Hall, a retail space adjacent to the impoverished Tenderloin neighborhood, the event brought together several employers seeking low-skill workers, none of which asked about criminal records or job history. Police helped raise awareness among homeless job-seekers by handing out flyers, and workforce development agency America Works provided resume-writing tips.

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