Connecting housing, services and employment are integral to creating stable lives, and CSH is steadily increasing focus and activities around employment opportunities for people in need of, or currently residing in, supportive housing. We invited our partners from the National Initiatives Team at Heartland Alliance, one of the leading anti-poverty organizations in the country, to blog about what they see as important efforts to coordinate services on behalf of job seekers experiencing homelessness.
How WIOA & HUD Combined State Planning Can Benefit Homeless Jobseekers
By Caitlin C. Schnur, Coordinator, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity, Heartland Alliance
At the National Center on Employment & Homelessness, and initiative of Heartland Alliance’s National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity, we believe employment in quality jobs is key to preventing and ending homelessness—yet we know millions of homeless jobseekers face significant barriers to employment success. Fortunately, there’s growing awareness and accountability in the homeless services system around increasing employment and economic opportunity for people experiencing homelessness. At the same time, under the recently passed Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the public workforce system aims to increase employment opportunities for jobseekers facing barriers, including homeless jobseekers. There’s clearly a shared goal here—and as we highlight in our new WIOA Planning & Implementation Toolkit, there’s also a unique opportunity for these systems to work together: WIOA and HUD combined state planning.
As CSH underscores in its materials focused on quality supportive housing, coordinated assessment, and housing access, public systems are better at solving big problems like homelessness and chronic unemployment when they work together. Combined state planning is an opportunity for systems to do just that. Under WIOA, states can develop statewide plans that guide their public workforce system in coordination with other systems and partners. At a minimum, states have to develop joint plans with core WIOA programs, such as adult education and literacy programs. States can choose to develop Combined State Plans with other partners, including employment and training activities carried out by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). That includes the Community Development Block Grant Program and the Continuum of Care Program, among others. By sharing capacity, knowledge, and resources via combined state planning, the public workforce and the homeless services system can tackle poverty by helping to ensure that a greater share of homeless jobseekers have access to workforce services and supports.
If done thoughtfully, WIOA and HUD combined state planning efforts can maximize resources and help more homeless jobseekers succeed in employment. For example, coordination between the public workforce and homeless services systems can help states and communities identify and implement a robust menu of employment and support services for homeless jobseekers. To increase the likelihood that homeless jobseekers can access workforce development services and other supports, combined state planning efforts can also help establish effective, cross-system referral processes. Finally, WIOA and HUD combined state planning can spur innovative system coordination ideas such as the inclusion of employment supports in coordinated access and assessment processes, co-location of homeless and workforce services, and the use of employment navigators, among others. These efforts increase the likelihood that homeless jobseekers can access and receive the appropriate workforce services that will help them succeed in employment.
Combined state planning with the public workforce will help the homeless services system meet its employment goals – and help homeless jobseekers meet theirs. As seen in the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness and the HEARTH Act’s performance measures, the homeless services system is becoming increasingly aware that employment is key to ending homelessness—and increasingly accountable for helping people experiencing homelessness succeed in work. Many people identify unemployment as a leading cause of their homelessness and rank paid employment alongside healthcare and housing as a primary need. City leaders also agree that unemployment is a leading cause of homelessness in their communities. What’s more, the long-term success of rapid rehousing interventions across the country depends on families having reliable and sufficient earnings. By coordinating with the public workforce system, the homeless services system will be better-equipped to meet its employment goals—and the needs and goals of people experiencing homelessness.
Major revisions to America’s public laws happen rarely, and WIOA and HUD combined state planning is a unique opportunity to spur coordination between the public workforce and homeless services system on behalf of homeless jobseekers. We know that public systems are better at solving big problems when they collaborate. By leveraging this opportunity and working together, stakeholders in both systems can open doors to employment for people experiencing homelessness now and in the future.
Like what you read?
Explore the new WIOA Planning & Implementation Toolkit from Heartland Alliance’s National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity (NI).
Read through NI’s Working to End Homelessness Toolkit.
Visit NI’s blog for more information about employment and homelessness.