Next Step: Jobs Promoting Employment for Homeless People

David A. Long and Jean M. Amendolia

September 2003

This report—“Promoting Employment for Homeless People” —by Abt Associates demonstrates that integrating employment services into supportive housing not only benefits tenants, but is a cost effective investment that strengthens communities. In 1996, CSH and our partners in government, philanthropy, and the supportive housing industry launched a national employment demonstration program. The Next Step: Jobs program involved 3,500 tenants living in 42 supportive housing buildings operated by 21 nonprofit agencies in New York, Chicago, and the San Francisco Bay area. These projects had already been proven to end homelessness by providing the supportive services their residents needed to maintain stable housing. Next Step: Jobs demonstrated that employment services can be successfully integrated into housing and that formerly homeless people can and want to work. This report shows that supportive housing tenants increase their earnings and decrease their reliance on public entitlements when employment services are provided. Given the opportunity to live in supportive housing and gain access to vocational help, they successfully pursue their dreams in careers as varied as chef’s assistant, social service worker, and computer technician. After following the employment activities of tenants for four years, the researchers conclude that it is cost effective to finance employment services in supportive housing, verifying what some dedicated supportive housing providers have long believed to be true. What will it take to establish supportive housing employment programs in more communities? Among the many actions needed, the following would be a good start: Government, particularly at the federal level, needs to establish the necessary financial incentives and the funding mechanisms to pay for the creative employment services that were so critical to the outcomes documented in this study; the reforms of our workforce development system have not served the homeless well. Congressional and Presidential action is needed to provide incentives for state workforce systems to include homeless people in the Workforce Investment Act and in other legislative opportunities; supportive housing providers should adopt employment and training practices that are backed up by solid evidence of effectiveness, track the results of their efforts, and report their outcomes to funders and to their tenants; and linkages between supportive housing, employment and training providers, and local one-stop workforce centers must be made and sustained.

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