A Multi-Organizational Work Collaborative of Businesses, Faith-Based Organizations and Nonprofits in the City of Austin, TX. A 20 person model.
There are many individuals, our neighbors, who for various reasons (many economic) find themselves experiencing homelessness. Many of these individuals welcome any opportunity to learn new skills, attain work and earn a self-supporting wage. Traditional avenues of job training and placement are overwhelmed with the current demand for their assistance serving only one in ten applicants at best. The Texas Work Force Commission readily acknowledges that it can only begin to serve the most prepared and capable job seekers. The “Let’s Get to Work Initiative” wishes to address the wasted human potential evidenced by our burgeoning shelters and people standing on our street corners asking for help and work. Statistical surveys conducted by the City of Houston, the City of Austin and two by the House The Homeless organization, all indicate a high desire to work by this population and to work at jobs that pay fair, living wages. We recognize that these individuals are the least qualified and the least capable of entering a traditional re-entry work program. This is a special population with special needs.
The current response to homelessness is to house people temporarily in shelters and then move them into “transitional housing” where they are provided a case worker whose job it is to stabilize their condition, help them attain their independence, and return them to the regular housing and work market. Unfortunately, the Federal Minimum Wage (currently at $7.25 per hour) will not afford them basic rental housing and so they are unable to “transition out.” Compounding the problem; there has been a tremendous resistance by neighborhoods to the creation and placement of any transitional housing. The result has been a Continuum of Care system that is incapable of serving the very purpose for which it was intended.
The “Let’s Get to Work Initiative” is intended to solve these problems. After assessing skill levels, applicants in shelters and in transitional living situations are offered an opportunity to earn a work certificate in about 20 areas of employment (i.e. solar panel installer or phlebotomist, etc.). By coordinating with local employers, certificate earners and other system graduates, working through a Program Coordinator, are placed in a job. Because the expected level of earning will be at, or just above the minimum wage level, a wage subsidy will be provided the individual. This will raise their wage to a Living Wage. Program supports will continue up to 18 months or until full self-sufficiency/ economic stability is achieved.
This problem is being played out in Austin and cities all across America. The problem of homelessness requires that all community members become community partners. This involves community activists, businesses and faith based organizations. Just as important as it is for businesses to partner with us and employ folks with long work layoffs, we need members of our faith-based community to involve their congregations. We envision this to be a somewhat costly, long term investment to end homelessness for individuals. We are seeking a personalized and individualized relationship between one Program Participant, the Program Manager and a Community Sponsoring Organization. In this scenario, we see a one-on-one relationship where all three entities share their stories, their hopes, their fears and their progress along the way.
LET’S GET TO WORK INITIATIVE
20 Person Model
Program Manager $35,000 add $5,000 admin costs=$40,000.
Living Wage Supports (Difference between the FMW and the Universal Living Wage) $982 per month
Transitional Housing Costs: $1800. per person-one time cost (deposit, 1st and last month’s rent
Misc.: One time cost per Individual: $200.00 i.e. steel toed shoes, hard hat, etc.
Education: $54 per credit hour i.e. $2000 to become Fire fighter
Preparedness Training for Workers: ie Literacy, job applications, resume prep, budgeting etc.
IN KIND SAVINGS:
Ends Economic Homelessness for each success story
Creates a Ready, Willing, Able and Stable Work Force
Involves the Business Community of Austin in the solution of ending homelessness
Strategically connects the Faith Based Community with those in need in their community
Frees bollixed up valuable transitional housing
Completes the COA Continuum of Care process
Provides opportunity, a pathway, and hope, for people experiencing homelessness
Wall of Workers
The best way to describe the Wall of Workers is hope. They are young men and women who for multiple reasons, be it relationships, health or economic concerns. have been knocked off course in their lives.
Homelessness is a vicious downward spiral that like the proverbial straw can crush a man or woman and end up consuming a person’s entire life. The Wall of Workers are regular folks who have experienced the worst that life has to offer but have now committed themselves to reinvesting themselves in life’s struggles. With the help of other individuals and committed service organizations they have picked up the pieces of their lives and taken a stand. They now declare themselves to be willing and able to re-engage themselves in work and the best that life has to offer. They see the Let’s Get to Work Initiative as their pathway of hope.