Affordable Housing, Community Development, Homelessness, Reports and Publications, State News

Critical Link Between Employment and Housing Focus of IForum

 

Over 160 people arrived to the Lyceum on Wednesday, June 19 for an IForum on Creating Pathways to Economic Security for Those Who Are Homeless. Those working in the housing/homeless services and employment/workforce development sectors heard presentations about how both  fields are integral parts in the fight to end homelessness and the right to employment.

The event began with an introduction by Commissioner Sharon Palmer, Connecticut Department of Labor, who commented on the exceedingly important role of partnerships among social service agencies in serving constituents and how these partnerships are even more important given continuing cuts to resources.

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The first keynote speaker, Jennifer Keeling, the director of policy at the Chicago Jobs Council,  gave a presentation on a variety of her experiences in Chicago that involved collaboration between workforce and homeless systems. She presented information about the Chicago Jobs Council’s collaboration with Chicago’s ten year plan to end homelessness, focusing on the integration of workforce development into the goals of the plan, which created new partnerships and allowed for the creation of programs targeted to the needs of the population experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

Keeling also discussed Opportunity Chicago, a cross-system, multi stakeholder initiative to place public housing residents in jobs. The program was a great success with over 6,000 residents placed in jobs over 5 years. Keeling stated that one of the most important reasons for their success was a successful partnership amongst both community-based organizations and service providers. She also presented information about the Frontline Focus Training Institute, which provides professional development trainings and resources for frontline employment services workers, a crucial component to strengthening the workforce development field.

The second keynote speaker, John Rio, senior research associate at Advocates for Human Potential, further expounded on the importance of employment opportunities to be included in plans to end homelessness. According to Rio, providing those who experience homelessness with housing will not necessarily lead to those individuals finding employment. The many barriers these individuals often face to gaining employment may remain and employment services are usually necessary to give individuals the tools to thrive in a work environment. Only by incorporating employment with housing do we stand a chance in the fight against homelessness.

Nora Bishop of the Connecticut Bureau of Rehabilitation Services (BRS) rounded out the event with a presentation on the employment initiatives offered by the BRS, including  -  HomeWork, EPIC I and II Distance Learning Modules, ProjectSOAR and MythBusters.

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