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|For people experiencing homelessness, a stable source of income and opportunities to build assets are necessary for securing and maintaining housing.|
It’s impossible to say how many, but it’s likely that a significant number of people experiencing homelessness are employed, have an employment history, or are seeking employment. Homeless people who are employed often face the same challenges as many other workers: low wages, underemployment, and temporary and sporadic opportunities.
Unemployment for this population is often due to a combination of obstacles such as lack of experience, physical or mental health barriers, challenges related to re-entry from incarceration or hospitalization, and homelessness itself. During times of widespread economic hardship when the job market tightens and more applicants compete for fewer opportunities, homeless applicants are at a distinct disadvantage.
Fortunately, programs around the country are helping this population achieve economic security. For those who are able to work and require assistance for a fair chance at living a decent life, key components of these programs include:
Cash assistance programs are available through the federal and state government for those who are unable to work for reasons such as disability and mental illness, and programs tailored to increasing financial literacy for these populations are also important.
Employment services can help people build the skills necessary to increase their income, attain financial independence, and maintain housing. Such services have also been shown to increase confidence and positive mental health outcomes, even for populations traditionally believed to be unsuitable for regular employment.
Integrating homeless populations into the workforce is also important for reasons beyond building confidence and self-sufficiency. Employment reduces the burden on social services, broadens the base of taxpayers, and encourages scalable community collaborations and partnerships to address issues of homelessness, unemployment, and poverty.