Healing & Thriving Communities Requires Expanding Opportunity for All

By Melissa Young, Director, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity, Heartland Alliance

2014-08-27  - Ferguson Part II
The city of Ferguson is, unfortunately, not unique. Ferguson is emblematic of far too many American communities home to millions of Americans facing barriers to opportunity and justice.  When we take a deeper look at Ferguson, we see a community burdened by significantly higher and deeper poverty than the rest of the country and its surrounding area – many residents being one or two crises away from experiencing homelessness and many facing significant food insecurity [1]. Sadly, hardships like these are felt in countless other large and small places across the country. If Ferguson and communities like it are to heal and thrive, we know we have to achieve policy change that expands opportunity.
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Four Ways You Can Be an Employment Champion for Homeless Job Seekers

By Caitlin C. Schnur, Workforce Research & Policy Fellow, NTJN

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Health Care for the Homeless – Baltimore (Photo courtesy of National Health Care for the Homeless Council)

In the National Transitional Jobs Network’s (NTJN) recent article in the Institute for Children, Poverty & HomelessnessUNCENSORED magazine, we showed why employment is critical to ending family homelessness and gave homeless service providers recommendations for integrating employment strategies into their programming.  We know, however, that many homeless service providers already offer consumers quality employment services and believe that employment has an important role to play in ending homelessness—so, what’s next? Here, we shift the focus from building better programs to building systems that prioritize employment as a pathway out of homelessness and are well-equipped to serve homeless job seekers.  If you’re a service provider looking to channel your experience and expertise toward ensuring that more homeless job seekers have access to employment and economic opportunity, this blog offers four actionable strategies to jumpstart your advocacy work.  Ready?  Go!  Read More…

Holistic Services: A Recipe for Success in Helping Homeless Youth Get + Keep Jobs

By David Applegate, Policy and Advocacy Assistant, NTJN

 DayBreak

This month, the National Transitional Jobs Network (NTJN) is highlighting an organization that’s been leading the way in the fight to end youth homelessness for over forty years: Daybreak. Located in Dayton, Ohio, Daybreak was founded in 1975 by volunteers who realized that young people who had been kicked out of their homes or had run away needed a safe place to stay at night.

Originally an emergency shelter for homeless youth, Daybreak’s operations have evolved and expanded over time.  As Daybreak’s Chief Executive Officer, Linda Kramer, puts it, “Our work is no longer just about housing the 15 year-old runaway but trying our best to address each individual’s oftentimes extensive and complex needs.”  Today, Daybreak offers street outreach, housing, education, mental health, and employment services—including transitional jobs—to help youth get and stay housed.  

In this interview, Linda shares more about the need for a holistic approach when addressing the needs of homeless youth and tells us all about Daybreak’s innovative approach to increasing employment opportunities for youth via their creative transitional jobs program. Read More…

Innovations in State Child Support Policy: A Smarter Way to Support Children and Fathers

By James Jones, B.MORE Initiative Coordinator, NTJN

Fathers Day

“Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives, we are reminded today that family is the most important. And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation. They are teachers and coaches. They are mentors and role models. They are examples of success and the men who constantly push us toward it.” – President Barack Obama (Father’s Day 2008)

This Father’s Day, we reflected on the selfless efforts of dads all across the country.  Fathers play a unique and important role in the lives of their children, spouses, and co-parents.  That role, however, can be undermined by stereotypes that relegate the breadth of a father’s contributions solely to provider or family breadwinner—stereotypes that have helped drive policies that marginalize low-income men who are unable to financially support their children and families.

In particular, low-income, noncustodial African American men are often depicted as dead beat dads—a negative narrative that is not supported by any empirical evidenceThe reality is that low-income African American men are often penalized by a web of child support policies and enforcement practices that were designed to collect revenue from noncustodial parents who were financially able, yet sometimes unwilling, to help support their families.  The impact of these “one-size-fits-all” policies is that families at the lowest end of the income spectrum tend to suffer severely.

In keeping with states like Missouri, Kansas, Indiana, Wisconsin and others, we encourage state child support enforcement agencies and entities serving low-income noncustodial fathers to implement innovative policies that help fathers meet their obligations while meeting their own basic needs, and help lift families out of poverty by helping parents succeed in employment.   This blog takes a longer look at states that are doing just that—and provides policy recommendations that we hope will help spur  innovation in a greater number of states. Read More…

Growing Careers: FarmWorks Combines Transitional Jobs + Contextualized Learning  

By Caitlin C. Schnur, Workforce Research and Policy Fellow, NTJN

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With the weather in Chicago (finally!) warming up, the National Transitional Jobs Network (NTJN) team traveled to East Garfield Park to visit FarmWorks, an urban farm developed by Heartland Human Care Services (HHCS) that provides transitional jobs (TJ) to low-income residents overcoming barriers to employment.  Splitting their time between the farm and the Greater Chicago Food Depository, transitional workers develop employable skills in urban farming, landscaping, and warehousing and distribution.

While the workers gain experience that will help them obtain entry-level work, FarmWorks realizes that entry-level jobs are a first step, not an end goal, for TJ participants.  “HHCS has run TJ programming for many years, and we’ve also been working on enhancements to the TJ model to ensure participant success in career pathways that lead to self-sufficiency,” says Jay Landau, HHCS’ Director of Education and Program Development.  To this end, FarmWorks has integrated its TJ program with a contextualized adult learning curriculum so that workers can build literacy and numeracy skills along with knowledge of career pathways with family-sustaining wages.

With FarmWorks’ strategy already showing positive results, the NTJN sat down with Jay and Dave Snyder, FarmWorks’ Program Manager, to talk about how this promising program design can help workers succeed and advance on the job.    Read More…

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