As the founder of the consulting firm Asset Building Strategies (ABS), Heather McCulloch, notes in her primer “Asset Building 101,” “Income enables families to get by. Assets enable them to weather financial crises, invest in their children and their community, plan for a secure retirement, and pass resources on to future generations.”
Assets, as you probably already know, can be anything from cash savings to home equity, and as you probably also know, it’s really important for your financial health to have them. But it might seem strange to talk about asset building for people who are experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of falling into homelessness, as they tend to have few, if any, assets.
Nonetheless, in many instances asset building can be an effective tool for preventing or shortening the length of an episode of homelessness. That’s because of the opportunities that assets provide for banking, for business and for home ownership.
Asset building can serve as an effective intervention:
- When someone’s inadequate financial literacy (poor budgeting or a poor understanding of credit and financial instruments) leads to an episode of homelessness; and
- When someone is unable to open bank accounts due to poor credit and/or a lack of a physical address (a situation that could worsen if the individual must resort to costly check-cashing venues for financial transactions).
Obviously, that’s far from an exhaustive list. There are many other of cases in which asset building can come in handy, and you can learn about them on Wednesday, December 5, when the National Alliance to End Homelessness hosts, “Asset Building and Financial Literacy for Populations Experiencing Homelessness.”
This webinar will explore how Louisville, Ky., and Seattle, two members of a coalition of municipal governments committed to improving the financial health of their residents (Cities for Financial Empowerment), are working to incorporate asset building and financial literacy components into their homeless service delivery systems.
The webinar also will cover policy recommendations by the CFED (Corporation for Enterprise Development)for more effectively integrating these initiatives into service delivery.
Speakers will include:
- Tina Lentz, Executive Administrator of Louisville Metro Community Services and Revitalization;
- Jerry DeGrieck, Senior Policy Advisor to Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn; and
- Edward SanFilippo, Economic Development Policy Fellow at NAEH.
Please consider participating in the webinar on Wednesday. You can register here.
Image courtesy of www.sweetclipart.com.
When it comes to housing stability, stable employment is often a crucial component. While many people experiencing homelessness are employed in some capacity, many individuals within the homeless population face significant barriers to employment. These include lack of experience, physical or mental health issues, challenges related to re-entry from incarceration or hospitalization, and homelessness itself. Fortunately, practical tools are available to help individuals overcome these barriers.
For example, the National Transitional Jobs Network launched its Working to End Homelessness Initiative in 2011 “to shine a spotlight on the important role of employment solutions in addressing homelessness and to identify and disseminate promising employment practices.” The organization uses transitional jobs strategies to help employ people who face the greatest barriers to employment. The National Transitional Jobs Network has identified four reasons why transitional jobs are good for homeless assistance providers and communities:
- Transitional jobs help low-income people with barriers to employment enter the workforce, avoid re-incarceration, and reduce their reliance on public benefits;
- Transitional jobs programs strengthen communities through investments in workers;
- Transitional jobs programs help employers meet their goals; and
- Transitional jobs programs can yield significant cost savings for states.
While transitional jobs can reintegrate people experiencing homelessness back into the workforce, they are just one component of a larger strategy. Transitional jobs are short-term in nature, so the relationship between a homeless assistance provider and their clients should be long-term. In fact, for most clients, the relationship with provider staff, and the encouragement and support they receive are crucial to the client’s success in transitioning from short-term employment to permanent employment. Other supportive services are also critical to a client’s success, from transportation assistance, to mental health treatment, to social supports such as mentors and support groups.
For homeless assistance providers in communities that lack employment agencies or programs, the National Transitional Jobs Network website provides a wealth of resources for building a transitional jobs program. It also outlines strategies for working with different subpopulations experiencing homelessness. For homeless assistance providers in communities that do have employment agencies and other employment resources, collaborating with them not only makes financial sense, it frees up organizations so they can focus on their own areas of expertise.
Homeless assistance providers can also connect employment specialists with the resources offered by National Transitional Jobs Network, which can help specialists develop employment opportunities for different subpopulations experiencing homelessness. By working together, organizations can focus on their individual roles in helping to end homelessness.
Image “Now Hiring” by AKZOphotos.
As we return to work after the Labor Day long weekend, we at the Alliance would like to recognize all those whose experience of homelessness is related to unemployment or underemployment. Labor Day is “a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country,” according to the Department of Labor.
At the height of the economic crisis a number of years ago, we completed a short series of briefs called Economy Bytes, which explored various economic indicators and their relationship to homelessness: Doubled Up in the United States, Working Poor People in the United States, and Effect of State and Local Budget Cuts on Homelessness. Until now, we have been unable to explore these economic challenges in greater depth.
After spending the summer as the Alliance’s Youth Policy Fellow, I am extremely pleased to have the opportunity to spend the upcoming semester in the new role of Economic Development Policy Fellow. In this new capacity, my primary emphasis will be on investigating employment initiatives for different sub-populations experiencing homelessness.
I’ll also be examining federal policies such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, exploring projects devoted to asset building and microenterprise, compiling a brief assessment of what other countries have done to address similar issues, and so forth.
This undertaking is long overdue, and we at the Alliance are excited to launch this new initiative. If your community or region has implemented innovative employment practices or economic policies for populations experiencing homelessness, we’d love to hear from you.
We’d like to wish you a belated Happy Labor Day!