Journey to Jobs: Understanding and Eliminating Barriers Imposed on Homeless Jobseekers
Journey to Jobs is a three-year, systems-level collaborative project to advance a key priority of the Baltimore City Continuum of Care’s effort to make homelessness rare and brief – improving access to employment and economic opportunity for homeless jobseekers. To this end, Journey to Jobs introduced new metrics, matched cross-system data, collected surveys, and conducted focus groups to understand the precise nature of interconnections between homelessness, economic instability, criminal records, and racial disparities. This analysis demonstrates the monumental barriers faced by many homeless jobseekers, and informs recommendations for racially equitable, sustainable, and collaborative solutions to connect individuals and families experiencing homelessness to employment.
In Baltimore City, people experiencing homelessness want to work, and many in fact do work, but do not earn enough to remain stably housed.
- Over two-thirds of people experiencing street homelessness expressed interest in looking for employment.
- Thirteen percent of people experiencing homelessness indicated they were employed at the initial point of assessment.
- Homeless jobseekers report multiple obstacles to obtaining and sustaining employment due to housing instability and associated stigma. Challenges are exacerbated by insufficient wages, untenable schedules, and the lack of career advancement opportunities.
Homeless jobseekers face multiple, intersecting barriers that increase vulnerability and impede one’s ability to access resources and gain housing and economic stability. Criminal records, in particular, have a pervasive, long-lasting, and demoralizing impact for many people experiencing homelessness.
- Forty-three percent of homeless individuals have at least one expungeable record.
- Over half of all cases amongst the dataset of individuals in the homeless service system are expungeable.
- The vast majority of charges (81%) are misdemeanors, and only 11% of all charges resulted in a conviction within district court.
At every level of analysis, people who identified as Black or African American were disproportionately represented and negatively impacted. Representing 64 percent of Baltimore City residents, they comprise:
- Seventy-nine percent of the homeless service system and 87 percent of the homeless young adult population.
- Eighty-two percent of individuals in the homeless service system with criminal cases.
- Racial equity strategies are essential to every effort within the homeless service and workforce systems, including all cross-sector efforts to support homeless jobseekers.
- Interagency collaboration, resource alignment, and shared competencies are imperative to overcoming the multiple, intersecting barriers to economic stability.
- The homeless service system must be equipped to understand and respond to the vocational aspirations of people experiencing homelessness.
- Improved metrics and cross-sector data matching are instrumental to understanding the needs and goals of homeless jobseekers.