National Center on Employment & Homelessness

The Pathways Forward Challenge is a project of the National Center on Employment & Homelessness (NCEH)—a national hub dedicated to ensuring that employment is a key element in efforts to prevent and end homelessness.


Our Vision


Theory of Change


Our Journey

That every person experiencing homelessness who wants to work achieves employment and the income needed for long-term housing stability.

This vision is grounded in the belief that every person deserves the opportunity to succeed in work and the knowledge that employment success and income stability are closely tied to housing stability. We believe that in order to end homelessness for good, systems in communities must do a better job of connecting all jobseekers with unstable housing to employment and income supports they want and need. Among other things, we know that this requires acknowledging racial disparities that exist among people experiencing homelessness, ensuring that systems strategies work to redress racial disparities, and meaningfully engaging people with lived experience of homelessness in systems change processes.


NCEH works to achieve this vision in the following ways:

ADVANCING PUBLIC POLICY & SYSTEMS CHANGE to open doors to employment for people experiencing homelessness through federal legislation, appropriations, programs, and cross agency collaboration.

NURTURING A MOVEMENT to grow the echo chamber of stakeholders who recognize the problem, promote solutions, and seek to integrate employment in equitable ways to support all individuals who face housing instability.

OPTIMIZING PUBLIC SYSTEMS to more equitably and effectively connect people experiencing homelessness to employment and income.


Learning. Building. Growing.

Since its inception in 2014, NCEH’s efforts have involved continual learning from a diverse group of stakeholders within communities—including people with lived experience of homelessness, frontline workers, managers, and executives within community based organizations and local government, and other community leaders. The knowledge and insights gained from these stakeholders form the foundation upon which we build new opportunities to advance policy change, optimize systems, and nurture the movement of people advancing employment solutions as key elements in addressing poverty.

Beginning in 2015, NCEH, with the support of the Oak Foundation and the Melville Charitable Trust, supported five sites around the country through the Connections Project. The Connections Project was a three year, place-based initiative that seeded innovative systems-level efforts to embed employment and income in coordinated community responses to homelessness as well as reduce structural barriers to employment. All told, Connections Project sites opened doors to employment and income for homeless jobseekers by optimizing public systems in their communities. Connections Project sites also contributed to a growing body of knowledge around systems change solutions to increasing employment and income for homeless jobseekers. Sharing this knowledge helped to nurture a movement of local and national stakeholders across disciplines who recognize income and employment as fundamental to preventing and ending homelessness—including bringing philanthropy to the table in new ways to learn and address this issue. NCEH also leveraged the learning and knowledge gained through the Connections Project to advance public policy by shaping recommendations for federal agency change.


While we’ve made significant progress forward, it is clear there is still much to be done.