I have received many emails from friends and neighbors asking “Why don’t we do what Albuquerque and Portland, Maine are doing – HIRE people who are homeless?”
Good news, we do.
In Albuquerque, New Mexico the city started a program called “There’s a Better Way” which reaches homeless people and connects them to jobs throughout Albuquerque.
I first learned about this Albuquerque program last year from our friend Sgt. Paul Gracy of the Seattle Police Department’s West Precinct. In turn, I reached out to Downtown Seattle Association and The Millionair Club Charity (MCC). DSA offers work through their successful Metropolitan Improvement District, and the MCC now has joined with United Way of King County to provide job opportunities to people who are homeless through a new program called “Jobs Connect.”
The MCC’s model in Seattle takes Albuquerque’s program a step further. Workers go through background checks, an orientation process, and job training prior to going out to work. More employers are willing to participate in the program this way.
Additionally, workers in Seattle are paid by check, provided with L&I insurance, and the employee pays appropriate taxes. And Jobs Connect helps workers find housing and links the workers to job ready services, such as warm showers, laundry, meals, work, clothes, cell phones, and job licenses.
This holistic model is what many people need to stabilize and to get up and on with their lives.
In the first six months of operation, MCC’s Jobs Connect has seen reasonable success. Those involved agree that combining outreach, job training, job placement and housing placement is a winning combination.
In six months between July 2016 and January 2017 Jobs Connect achieved the following benchmarks:
- Reached 3,631 people- This step is crucial in building trust and relationships. It often takes several tries before a person feels comfortable to join MCC’s Supportive Employment Program
- 715 people have completed at least one day of work
- 82 people have obtained a long-term job
Here’s a first hand story I have permission to print:
Homeless when he arrived at the MCC, Claudio said he had “hopes, but nothing certain.”
Claudio emigrated to the United States from Brazil and has been a U.S. citizen for 30 years. He speaks seven languages, and ran his own interpreter business in Massachusetts.
Claudio returned to his native country after he and his wife divorced. But employment opportunities in Brazil were few and far between. He thought to himself, “what have I done with my life?”
So he returned to the United States and started working for fish processors in Alaska. The work was hard –often up to 18 hours a day– and his employers were erratic in their payment. So, in February 2017, Claudio moved to Seattle to find something else.
Claudio moved in to the Bread of Life mission and came to MCC last month. He said there is a difference in the people he met here: “You know, I’ve lived in many places around the world. But Seattle is a great place to be and restart your life. There is more respect here, and more opportunities. At the MCC, my life started to become different.”
MCC reports that while progress is being made for many people like Claudio, they seek help in two things:
- More employers are needed—there are more willing and trained workers than there are jobs.
- More affordable housing is also necessary to house the workers. This is why it is imperative we work with our county, state and federal partners as well as the business and nonprofit community to increase our affordable housing options in any way we can.
Next time someone says “Why aren’t we doing what Albuquerque and Portland Maine do?” You’ll know the answer. We do. And you can let them know they, too, can help by calling Jacki Lorenz or James Miller at The Millionair Club Charity at 206-728-JOBS (5627) or hiring a local worker through their website here.
Posted: March 29th, 2017 under Human Services and Health