CoCs and WDBs Can Pave the Way to Employment for Those Experiencing Homelessness

Communication and Collaboration Can Help Target Employment Services And Improve Housing and Economic Stability

Continuums of Care (CoC) and Workforce Development Boards (WDB) can work together to pave the way to employment for individuals experiencing homelessness. An important first step around employment for CoCs and partners working to end homelessness in communities in New Jersey is, if you aren’t already doing so, to connect with your local WDB.

Workforce Development Boards (WDB), also known as Workforce Investment Boards and Workforce Boards, direct federal, state, and local funding to workforce development programs. Need help connecting with your local WDB. This New Jersey Career Connections site can help you find your local One Stop Center. And this link can help you find your local Workforce Development Board. State and local WDBs connect the U.S. Department of Labor and local One Stop Job Centers that deliver services to workers and employers. The WDBs’ role is to develop regional strategic plans and set funding priorities for their area.

Public workforce service systems such as WDBs and CoCs often serve the exact same people that are experiencing homelessness and housing instability. It makes sense for them to work together.

There are ways through communication and collaboration that WDBs and CoCs can work together to target those seeking employment who are at risk of homelessness or who are currently homeless. What partnerships can WDBs and CoCs develop across systems and help those experiencing homelessness increase access to education and job training? Can CoCs help those experiencing in homelessness by developing relationships with employers?

As we know, homelessness often creates barriers to employment. Often, it can be very hard to both maintain and find employment when experiencing homelessness. Homeless people lack a fixed address, stability, flexibility and encounter many complications that may make employers less likely to select and keep them as employees.

Many individuals experiencing homelessness, including those who are homeless over the long-term, may have mental illness or physical health issues that they may need support for in the work environment. Those experiencing homelessness may benefit from a customer service-based model rather than having to fit into existing employment programs driven by funding sources or after meeting certain employment or pre-employment benchmarks.

But if they do not have employment options and the opportunity to reach financial stability, these people are more likely to experience long term homelessness or cycle in and out of homelessness.

CoCs and their local members and partners should work with both employment services and WDBs in order to find innovative ways to serve individuals experiencing homelessness.

Employment opportunities for the homeless, in the long-term, promote stability and self-sufficiency. CoCs can work with WDBs to develop inclusive employment program models that ensure that the homeless population is served.

The ultimate goal is that job seekers experiencing homelessness are able to achieve stable and affordable housing, employment and the economic opportunities that come with employment.

You can read more about how to build better connections between workforce and homeless services in this report, Systems Work Better Together: Strengthening Public Workforce & Homeless Service Systems Collaboration, which was published by the Heartland Alliance in 2018.

HUD Exchange also shared information about Opportunities for Collaboration with Workforce Boards in 2015.