The Connections Project is a three-year, place-based, systems-level collaboration and capacity-building project aimed at increasing employment and economic opportunity for homeless jobseekers. The project is made possible thanks to the support of the Oak Foundation and the Melville Charitable Trust.
Through a competitive process, we identified five Connections Projects Sites in 2015. These five awardees are hard at work planning, implementing, and strengthening innovative systems collaboration ideas in order to meet the goal of increasing employment and economic opportunity for homeless jobseekers.
The five awardees are:
|Many homeless jobseekers, and especially homeless jobseekers of color, face a significant barrier to securing housing and employment: a criminal record. Baltimore’s Connections Project, Journey to Jobs, is working to reduce the incidence and impact of interaction with the justice system in order to improve access to stable housing and economic opportunity. To this end, Journey to Jobs collected cross-system data that demonstrate how interaction with the justice system and patterns of structural racism perpetuate cycles of poverty and inequity: in Baltimore, 43 percent of homeless individuals have at least one expungable record and, among these clients, 83 percent are African American or black while only 12 percent are white. With these data, Journey to Jobs has partnered with local legal services to increase access to criminal record expungement for homeless jobseekers. Moving forward, their work will inform policy and systems change aimed at reducing interactions with the criminal justice system and increasing access to housing and economic opportunity for people of color experiencing homelessness.||
|At the start of Chicago’s Connections Project, only nine percent of people exiting the homeless services system left with increased income from employment. With a goal of doubling that percentage, Chicago’s Connections Project, Destination: Jobs, has worked to ensure that all people entering the homeless services system are asked about their employment interests. With these data, Destination: Jobs is piloting an effort to connect homeless jobseekers with available employment services. Destination: Jobs will also use these data to elevate the role that employment can play in preventing and ending homelessness as well as to better understand what types of workforce development strategies are needed to help Chicago’s homeless jobseekers meet their employment goals. In addition, Destination: Jobs has taken steps to strengthen coordination and collaboration between the homeless services and workforce development systems. For example, the team has offered cross-system trainings, presentations, and workshops aimed at familiarizing stakeholders with each other’s systems and equipping participants with the skills and knowledge to better meet the employment needs of homeless jobseekers.|
|There is a strong link between housing stability and income—but people entering the homeless service system aren’t always matched to income and employment supports that meet their needs. Team Houston’s work changes that. Through their Connections Project, Team Houston integrated their homeless services system with an income assessment and triage tool to ensure all people receiving homeless services can access both employment and housing. As of April 2017, over 1,000 people entering Houston’s homeless services system have been connected to employment assistance, surpassing Team Houston’s original goal of 700. In addition, through their year-long “Income Now” workshop series, Team Houston has led the charge to ensure that homeless services and workforce development stakeholders understand how employment can help prevent and end homelessness and are well-equipped to connect homeless jobseekers to work. The workshop series built both buy-in and capacity among participants; at the end of the series, participants were more likely to agree that people experiencing homelessness can succeed in work and that they feel better prepared to help homeless jobseekers address employment goals.|
|Employment is critical to efforts to prevent and end youth homelessness. Minneapolis’ Connections Project, the Opening Doors Collaborative, aims to advance employment and economic opportunity for youth experiencing homelessness by helping to ensure that the systems and programs that touch their lives are resourced, aligned, and equipped to connect them to quality jobs. Because the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Employment & Training (E&T) program can be leveraged to serve homeless youth, the Opening Doors Collaborative has worked to grow Minnesota’s access to SNAP E&T dollars and has tripled the number of E&T providers working with youth experiencing homelessness. The Opening Doors Collaborative has also increased understanding of best practices in employment programming for homeless youth by engaging over 250 stakeholders in workshops focused on integrating employment and housing solutions. In 2017, the Opening Doors Collaborative will launch a new youth rapid re-housing and employment model and, through the 100-Day Challenge on Youth Homelessness, will focus on housing and employing youth.|
|Seattle’s Connections Project, Home&Work, recognizes that people experiencing homelessness need to be matched with employment, training, and income supports that meet their interests and needs as soon as they enter the homeless services system. In coordination with Seattle’s efforts to streamline entry into its homeless services system, Home&Work collaborated with public and private partners to create a referral pathway that connects people experiencing homelessness who want to work to employment and training opportunities. In addition, Home&Work has been engaging Seattle’s local business community in order to create access to jobs, career pathways, and wage progression for homeless jobseekers. In 2016 and 2017, for example, Home&Work partnered with local employers to host direct hire fairs in which nearly 30 percent of homeless jobseekers applying for jobs were hired. Moving forward, Home&Work will also focus on aligning local public and philanthropic funding to support employment services for people experiencing homelessness.|
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