“Why don’t homeless people just get a job?”
It can be hard not to ask this question when we come across people sitting on sidewalks and under highways in the middle of the day. Along with the false stereotype that homeless people are lazy, this stereotype that homeless people should just get a job to solve their homelessness is incorrect.
There are over 4,500 people experiencing homelessness in Dallas (500 considered to be chronically homeless), so coming across someone who is homeless in our city is pretty common. While it’s estimated that 25 percent of the US homeless population is employed, things like wage and high housing costs get in the way of being able to afford a home. In addition to that, there is an estimated 40-60 percent who float in and out of jobs for varying reasons.
Regardless of whether those experiencing homelessness have a job or not, there are many things that get in the way of finding a job that will help them out of homelessness…
Reason #1: No permanent address
Having no permanent address is pretty much what defines homelessness. Most jobs require a permanent address from those they consider hiring, so not having one makes it more difficult to find a job. On top of that, having a place to call home brings stability and rest to the person needing to prepare for to head to their job each day. Without that stability and rest, it is hard to focus and do well in a job. One other thing to mention here is that housing is expensive, which means that a minimum wage job won’t be enough to pay for most housing.
Reason #2: No reliable contact info or transportation
When you fill out a job application or are offered a job, the one hiring will need a way to contact you. Not Having a cell phone and or an email, for example, is a barrier to getting a job. The other issue is not having reliable transportation or not having transportation at all. Thankfully Dallas has the DART metro system, but even that has its challenges. If you miss your bus, for example, people can often have to wait another 45 minutes for the next one. This can make it hard to get to a job on time.
Reason #3: Limited access to showers and nice clothing
While there are places for people experiencing homelessness to take a shower, wash their clothes, or get nicer clothing for an interview, it is not the easiest to find. With over 4,500 people in the city of Dallas experiencing homeless, there is always a wait to get a shower, wash your clothes or find new ones. Showers are also not something many can take every day, so if someone experiencing homelessness had a particularly heavy day of work or travel, having the opportunity to get clean for their job the next day can be slim.
Reason #4: Gaps in employment history
For many of our friends, having gaps in employment make filling out a resume a little more challenging. Many jobs won’t consider hiring someone when there are significant gaps in their employment history or even when they are not currently employed. Employment gaps can happen for many different reasons, just like for they can happen for those who are not homeless. Yet, for those who have resources like a permanent address, a phone and transportation, finding a job may happen a little faster than for someone who is homeless.
Reason #5: Criminal record
Having a criminal record does not look good on a job application, and many jobs won’t hire someone who has one. For those who are able to afford to have their criminal record expunged, finding a job who will hire them is much easier. But for those who are homeless, they don’t often have the funds to erase their criminal history. For our friends in Dallas, however, we are beginning to partner with people who can help our friends on the street get their criminal records expunged without having to pay an arm and a leg. (We’ll be sharing more about this soon…)
Reason #6: Mental or physical disability and/or addiction
The majority of the chronically homeless that we work with are 45 years old and above. For many people who are getting older, it is harder for them to do labor work. Finding work outside of labor, especially without the resources mentioned above, is hard. There also can be mental or physical disabilities as well as addictions that make it difficult to find a job and keep a job.
If all of those reasons above were fixed… they have a home, reliable transportation, the right meds for their depression… the chances of them finding a job and staying in a job is much higher. However, when two key aspects are not addressed, their cycle of homelessness or not being able to keep a job will continue.
The two main aspects we have found to be the root causes of homelessness are trauma and a profound catastrophic loss of family. For the majority of the chronically homeless that we work with each day, this is true. They all have something traumatic that has happened in their life and then share how their families or community were no longer able to be there for them.
We need to address these root causes of homelessness so that as they find a home, a job and stabilize, they can flourish. And the way to address these roots is through relationship, through being their family, their community.
Partner with us
One of the ways of being in relationship with the homeless in Dallas is by partnering with us! And one of the ways to do that is through jobs. For Neal Morris, Managing Partner for Perry Guest Companies, he has hired two of our formerly homeless friends and shares this about his experience partnering with us:
“The homeless have a very very hard time finding jobs. The problem is that there is a gap in trust between the homeless and working communities,” Neal said. “Employers feel like hiring a homeless person not only comes with a lot of added risk, but that they can’t even quantify the amount of added risk. The unknowns are too great. So, they err on the safe side, and pass on hiring the homeless.”
“This is where the Human Impact comes in and plays a critical role in minimizing the unknowns for a would-be employer,” he continued. “With a Candidate Profile in hand, an employer can then make an informed decision. Moreover, they have the added comfort of knowing that if any complications arise, the Human Impact will use their best efforts to help.”
If you are a business owner and want to be involved in bridging the job gap for the homeless in Dallas, we’d love to hear from you!