Work First Models Taking Hold Around the Country!

I had posted about this concept a while back on Boston’s Work First program and just ran across this article on a work first initiative in Atlanta and First Step Staffing. I really appreciate this type of enterprise as it reaches out to those men and women who are the hardest to engage in the workforce. Beyond having the workforce trained and available, businesses actually have to hire them (of course). It appears, in the article below, that an Atlanta Councilman has taken the lead and asking others to do so, as well. :0)

Atlanta Councilman Urges

Colleagues to Hire the

Homeless

by Jennifer Cooper October 20, 2010 

Having a roof over one’s head is nice. Having a job that will enable one to pay for said roof is even nicer.

Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall helped Erica Merriwether get just that. Merriwether lost her accounting job at an Atlanta law firm in July 2008 and eventually lost her home and her car. By the end of 2009, she was living in a homeless shelter.

That all changed in February when, with the help of First Step Staffing, she was hired as an administrative assistant for Hall. The job gave her an income and the means to continue looking for a job as an accountant, which she eventually landed at the Rosewood Hotel at the Mansion on Peachtree in late August.

Now Hall is calling on his fellow City Council members to consider hiring those who are homeless through First Step Staffing or similar programs. Some 7,000 residents of the Atlanta Metro region are homeless. First Step, and other programs like Boston’s Work First, focus on putting the formerly homeless on a path to financial independence.

Those who are homeless often have trouble finding a job because they lack an address and phone number, have long periods of unemployment, have a criminal record, or lack transportation to and from work. First Step Staffing provides not only job training and transportation to the work site if no public transportation is available, but it also assists in securing affordable housing.

Earlier this week Hall asked his colleagues to consider hiring homeless workers for vacant staff positions. Given that unemployment is often the reason for homelessness — according to the Georgia Department of Labor, roughly 10.3 percent of those in the Atlanta area were unemployed in August 2010 — it makes little sense in the long-term to house someone with no means of becoming self-sufficient. First Step and similar programs not only help those who are homeless to get off the street, but they provide the tools necessary to stay off the street.

Putting homeless residents to work saves valuable public dollars, bolsters their self-worth and reduces the likelihood of chronic homelessness. Tell the Atlanta City Council to give homeless residents a chance at a job.

Photo credit: Brenda Gottsabend

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