Demonstration Employment Project for Preventing Homelessness
The Realization Project is a pilot initiative to prevent persistent homelessness through employment. It addresses chronic homelessness as a problem of racial injustice as well as a problem of inadequate income by providing comprehensive services and skill development that lead to jobs that will pay for rent and a decent life for community college students who are likely to be persistently homeless.
The project was convened by the Economic Roundtable, the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. Thirty organizations that participated in planning the project came from organized labor, the nonprofit sector, and state and local government.
All 30 participating organization unanimously agreed to five core principles:
- Homelessness is a problem of inadequate income as well as of unaffordable housing.
- Employment is an important tool for providing income, dignity and housing for homeless individuals.
- Employment interventions should be provided at the onset of homelessness, before individuals are severely harmed by prolonged homelessness.
- Interventions should be targeted on employable individuals who want a job but will otherwise become persistently homeless.
- Employment interventions should provide comprehensive help, including temporary housing, behavioral health services, job training, and access to high-road employment.
The Realization Project uses two predictive screening tools developed by the Roundtable to identify community college students who are likely to be persistently homeless.
Participants receive comprehensive, individually tailored support including housing, counseling, team building, behavioral health services, mentoring, transportation, vocational assessment, job training, access to apprenticeship training for union jobs, and academic courses, tutoring, and support services at Long Beach City College, and help in obtaining a living-wage job.
This approach jumpstarts the current model of giving progressively more help to individuals the longer they remain homeless. Re-employment opens a new line of attack by addressing homelessness as an issue of economic opportunity and human potential. Employment can provide income, dignity and housing for homeless individuals.
Participants demonstrate remarkable resilience, drive and possibilities for success but they struggle against formidable and unfair obstacles. There are solutions to each person’s problems, but no single solution. The difficulties they are overcoming include poverty, lack of family support, foster care experiences, discouragement, anxiety, depression, gaps in educational knowledge, criminal justice records, and unfamiliarity with living wage occupations.
The project has been funded by the California Community Foundation, the Weingart Foundation, and the Long Beach City College Foundation.
The costs for heavy touch comprehensive services are offset by avoiding ongoing high public costs that would be incurred if the participants were not helped and became persistently homeless. These net cost savings make the project scalable through linkages with public systems for employment services, public assistance, health care, and the justice system.
The project director is Dr. Seth Pickens. He can be reached at: email@example.com.