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Forum Post: 44% of Homeless People are Employed

Posted 4 years ago on Sept. 26, 2013, 7:48 p.m. EST by grimwomyn (35) from New York, NY
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

Job Security and Underemployment

Not only have wages stagnated or declined over the last two decades, but also job stability and job security have deteriorated. One measure of job stability, involuntary job loss, has increased in recent years. The economy has lost nearly six million jobs since the recession began in December 2007. Household Survey reports that the unemployment rate increased from 8.9% to 9.5% in June 2009, which according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics added over three-quarters of a million workers to the unemployed list (Economic Policy Institute, 2009). Additionally, people are falling victims to long term unemployment at greater rates. The number of people out of work for 27 weeks or more is approximately 4.4 million (3 in 10 unemployed workers). The workforce dropped from 155.1 million in May to 154.9 million in June (U.S. News & World Report).

Displaced workers face difficulty finding new employment; when they do find work, their new jobs pay, on average, about 13% less than the jobs they lost. And more than one-fourth of those who had health insurance on their old jobs don't have it at their new ones (Mishel, Bernstein, and Schmitt, 1999). Additionally, reports indicate that from 2001-2003, about 30% of people who had involuntarily lost jobs were not employed when they were surveyed again (Farber, 2005). As professional and managerial jobs have become increasingly vulnerable to downsizing, higher socioeconomic groups are experiencing increased job instability, and the risk of job loss is becoming more equally distributed by socioeconomic status (Farber 2005).

Another trend impacting job security is non-standard work... In 1997, almost 30% of workers were employed in non-standard work arrangements (i.e. independent contracting, working for a temporary help agency, day labor, or regular part-time employment) (Mishel, Bernstein, and Schmitt, 1999). Temporary employment has increased by 11% since 1972 (Kalleberg, Reskin, & Hudson, 2000). These non-standard work arrangements typically offer lower wages, fewer benefits, and less job security. Even temporary jobs are being affected by the worsening economy, with monthly losses that averaged 73,000 during the previous six months (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009).

A useful measure of the decline in job security is underemployment. Unlike the unemployment rate, measures of underemployment reflect not only individuals who are unemployed, but also involuntary part-timers and those who want to work but have been discouraged by their lack of success. As of March 2009, the underemployment rate is 15.8%, substantially higher than the 9.4% unemployment rate which translates into 24.4 million people who are underemployed or one out of every six American workers is either unemployed or underemployed. (Economic Policy Institute, 2009). The number of involuntarily part-time workers has nearly doubled since the start of the recession, from 4.6 million to 9.0 million. One reason for the higher level of underemployment is the increasing number of involuntary part-time workers -- workers who want to work full time but have only been able to obtain part time work.

Thus, for many Americans, work provides no escape from poverty. The benefits of economic growth have not been equally distributed; instead, they have been concentrated at the top of income and wealth distributions. A rising tide does not lift all boats, and in the United States today, many boats are struggling to stay afloat.

Barriers to Employment

As bad as it is for the 44% of homeless people who have jobs and can't escape homelessness, climbing out of homelessness is virtually impossible for those without a job. For those with limited skills or experience, opportunities for jobs that pay a living wage are very limited. Additionally, many members of the homeless population have to combat barriers such as limited transportation and reduced access to educational and training programs (Long, Rio, & Rosen, 2007). In such a competitive environment, the difficulties of job seeking as a homeless person can be almost insurmountable barriers to employment.

Mental or physical illnesses also play vital roles in the employment participation of homeless individuals or those at risk for becoming homeless. Research statistics illustrate that a disability, mental or physical, can result in difficulty acquiring work. In addition to mental illness and substance abuse, incarceration also serves as a barrier for employment. Incarceration can decrease the types of employment available to an individual after release from jail or prison. Along with the previously mentioned barriers, the lack of access to technology serves as a handicap for the homeless searching for work. In this job market, some knowledge of computers and technology is essential for every field. Although there are computers available through public access, some homeless individuals lack computer knowledge and fear failure.

Much has been learned from programs designed to help homeless people obtain and maintain employment in recent years. Studies indicate that mainstream programs, where the homeless are a minority population, may meet some of the basic needs of some homeless individuals but struggle to encourage employment by these individuals and provide income and support. This shortcoming also highlights that other groups of the homeless receive little income or employment support, i.e. single adults. Programs directly targeted to homeless populations such as the programs funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, The Department of Health and Human Services (Transitional Living Program for homeless youth), or The Department of Labor which funds Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (focusing on employment) are from descriptive accounts fairly more successful in the homeless population than mainstream initiatives. In addition to these programs, mainstream federal employment programs and demonstrations have particular local grantees that target homeless people.

Because of past legislation, a variety of government funded programs exist to assist the homeless. Studies show that programs designed to assist the homeless should be implemented to cover a variety of concerns. An evaluation of the Job Training for the Homeless Demonstration Program (JTHDP), authorized by the Stewart B. McKinney Act in 1988, found that successful employment programs provide access to a wide variety of services including housing to help the homeless overcome employment barriers. In addition, the evaluation concluded that in order for employment programs to be most successful, they must directly target the homeless or those at risk of becoming homeless.

In 2003, in support of the goal of ending chronic homelessness, and building upon previous efforts of the 1988 – 1995 Job Training for the Homeless Demonstration Program, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, partnered together to launch the Ending Chronic Homelessness through Employment and Housing (ECHEH) initiative. The initiative was funded by three branches within DOL - the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), the Employment and Training Administration (ETA), and the Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS) - and by HUD’s Office of Special Populations. In this five year initiative, DOL and HUD awarded a combined total of $23,615,367 to five local workforce investment boards and their respective housing partners. A major goal of this initiative was to develop sustainable and effective direct service partnerships between housing providers, homeless assistance agencies, and the mainstream workforce system.

Read More: http://nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/employment.html



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[-] 2 points by beautifulworld (22956) 4 years ago

This is what happens when an economic system values profits over people. An economic system should have a moral component and work for actual human beings, not against them.

Sharing a fair percentage of the profits through fair, living wages is a necessity if a society is to function properly. Hoarding wealth for the very top creates a sick society and hence, the homelessness we see among people who are actually working.

[-] 2 points by Nevada1 (5843) 4 years ago

Good Post. With every trip to the store, prices up.

[-] 2 points by MyBrothersKeeper (-36) 4 years ago

I appreciate greatly that you posted this. I can think of nothing more relevant to OWS than this topic.


[-] -3 points by toomanygk (11) 4 years ago

So sad. Unless they have made a baby or 2, they get very little help!

[-] -2 points by IrishRevolt (5) 4 years ago

People without homes is a problem that is hard to imagine we still have.

There are, however, some people who simply refuse to get their act together. What the solution is for this group is anyone's guess.