Possibly one of the greatest myths about homelessness is that homeless people don’t have jobs. Many of those affected by homelessness and poverty are subjected to this inaccurate stereotype. Simply having a job does not prevent a person from becoming homeless, just as having a job does not necessarily bring a person out of homelessness. Many factors such as underemployment, involuntary job loss, contracted jobs or lack of job security have a great impact on a person or family’s ability to maintain housing and afford basic life necessities.
The concept of “the working poor” now has a new face. Many of those considered as the working poor now consist of degree-holding and skilled employees who cannot find consistent or stable employment, are not offered benefits, are seasonally employed or have employers with fluctuating hours based on the needs and success of the business. The threat of becoming homeless increasingly affects many who are currently employed, and when hard times hit, the progression to homelessness can accelerate faster than anyone can imagine.
Barriers to Employment
In reality, there are children in our local schools, colleagues in the workplace and people we see out in the community that we never would have guessed are homeless. Homelessness creates barriers to employment, even for the most motivated homeless job seeker. Being homeless means not having an address to write down on a job application and most likely no phone number to be reached at in order to schedule an interview. In addition to the application process, transportation and appropriate clothing to wear to a job are also large struggles for the unemployed homeless.
Pam, a resident of Martha’s Village and Kitchen, is familiar with the difficulty of finding and maintaining employment. Originally from Los Angeles, Pam struggled to afford rent and everyday expenses, even with a well-paying job. Pam was homeless for five years, moving from one shelter to the next, while trying to maintain employment. She decided to move to the Coachella Valley where the cost of living is more affordable. However, the hope of attaining self-sufficiency quickly fell apart, as many of the jobs she was offered were for seasonal employment and did not provide her the stability to get back on her feet.
Pam first arrived to Martha’s in May 2015, overwhelmed and frustrated with her ongoing job search. With access to Martha’s computer lab and career resources, Pam landed a job with a large retailer in the Palm Desert mall. What made the news of her job offer even more exiting was that it was not a seasonal position and there are opportunities for promotion. Pam said one of the most helpful resources at Martha’s were the volunteers that helped clients with mock interviews. “That is what nailed my job [Career and Education Services], it gave me a lot of confidence,” said Pam.
Martha’s Career and Education Services is dedicated to helping clients and residents like Pam to overcome barriers to employment by providing career counseling, a computer lab for training/research and telephones with voicemail accounts to keep in contact with potential employers. On a case-by-case basis, many residents participate in job seeking programs at Martha’s along with programs with the Employment Development Department. EDD has a location in Indio and is accessible by residents of Martha’s through bus routes.
Although having a job does not always promise an escape from homelessness, having stable employment is one of the most important steps toward self-sufficiency and a brighter future. If you are interested in volunteering your professional services toward improving our clients in the Career and Education department or if you would like to make a financial contribution to support Career and Education, please visit our volunteer page and donation page.