Recognizing Work as a Priority in Preventing or Ending Homelessness

Gary Shaheen and John Rio

July 2007

The literature speaks to the importance of employment in the lives of homeless individuals and shows how they can be assisted in job seeking (Long & Amendolia, 2003; Marrone, 2005; Quimby, Drake, & Becker, 2001; Rio, Russell, Dudasik, & Gravino, 1999; Rog & Holupka, 1998; Shaheen, Williams, & Dennis, 2003; Trutko, Barnow, Beck, Min, & Isbell, 1998). Some reports suggest it may be effective and worthwhile to offer employment at the earliest stages of engagement to help people who are homeless develop trust, motivation, and hope (Cook et al., 2001; Min, Wong, & Rothbard, 2004). Practitioners have historically focused on providing people with access to safe and affordable housing and supportive services, usually addressing employment later in the continuum. This practice-oriented report from the field proposes that employment should be offered as early as possible and maintains that facilitating employment is an unrecognized and underutilized practice for preventing and ending homelessness. The paper provides principles, practices, and strategies programs can use to make work a priority.

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