Economic Security

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:

  • A coordinated system of training;
  • Employment development;
  • Financial literacy education;
  • Mentoring; and
  • Traditional supportive services.

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.


Library Resources

Solutions Brief | August 21, 2013
Disconnected youth face multiple barriers to employment compared to their stably connected peers, which can increase the burden on social services agencies. This brief includes an overview of the scope of youth unemployment and the challenges it generates, including its nexus with education and criminal activity, and lessons learned from the American Recovery and Investment Act about employing disconnected youth.
Webinar | December 12, 2012
In this webinar, Alliance staff joined leaders from Louisville, KY and Seattle, WA, for, “Asset Building and Financial Literacy for Populations Experiencing Homelessness." Speakers provided information about these communities’ efforts to embed asset building and financial literacy components into their homeless service delivery systems, plus federal and state/local policy recommendations for more effective integration of these initiatives into service delivery.