Ending homelessness requires that systems more effectively and equitably connect all unstably housed people to employment and the income needed for housing stability.
The National Center on Employment and Homelessness (NCEH) at Heartland Alliance, with generous funding from the Oak Foundation and Melville Charitable Trust, will support up to five communities in advancing systems change ideas that increase employment among people experiencing homelessness. Selected Pathways Forward communities will receive financial resources, technical assistance, and connections to peer learning opportunities in order to implement their ideas over a two and a half year project period. Our aim is to spur bold systems changes that more effectively and equitably connect homeless and unstably housed jobseekers to employment.
THE KEY ELEMENTS OF THE CHALLENGE
Supports Systems Change.
The Pathways Forward Challenge will support proposed ideas that are about optimizing systems in communities, not funding direct services or programs. Systems change strategies address the underlying conditions—or root causes—of unemployment and homelessness. Furthermore, because homeless jobseekers are typically engaged in and affected by a number of interacting and interdependent systems—including the homeless service, workforce, criminal justice, child welfare, and other systems—positive systems change involves collaboration across multiple systems.
Focuses on People Not Prioritized for Housing.
Communities selected to participate in the Pathways Forward Challenge will develop systems change strategies that increase employment and income for the significant number of people experiencing homelessness who are not likely to receive housing through the homeless service system due to long wait lists, lack of housing stock, or low vulnerability scores. Improving systems connections to employment for this population is critical to increasing the efficiency and success of the homeless service system over time and improving outcomes for all people experiencing homelessness, especially people of color.
Challenges Communities to Set Bold Goals.
Shifting systems and increasing employment and income for people experiencing homelessness is an ambitious task. This is where the “challenge” of the Pathways Forward Challenge comes in. We are looking to select sites that are willing to set bold goals relative to the outcomes they seek. Bold goals are ambitious, yet believable, and result in meaningful increases in employment and income for homeless jobseekers.
Supports Communities in Applying a Racial Equity Lens to Systems Change Initiatives.
Because the impact of structural racism is pervasive, public systems that do not explicitly commit to racial equity, will de facto produce inequitable outcomes. In order to increase employment and income among all homeless jobseekers, therefore, selected Pathways Forward communities will commit to applying a racial equity lens to the development of their systems change ideas, setting of goals, and measurement of outcomes.
Measures and Celebrates Data-Informed Progress.
Communities applying to participate in the Pathways Forward Challenge will first gather information about the target population (described above) in their communities that will inform and drive their proposed systems change ideas and goals. As their ideas are implemented, selected Pathways Forward teams will track and share progress toward their goals through public data dashboards, hosted and managed by NCEH. Sharing progress will allow other communities and stakeholders to follow, encourage, and celebrate the efforts of selected communities. In alignment with their commitments to racial equity, selected communities will also collect disaggregated data on race and ethnicity in order to assess the extent to which gains in employment and income are being experienced equitably. Pathways Forward communities will also participate in an external evaluation focused on evaluating the role and impact of systems change in supporting pathways to employment and income for homeless jobseekers.