May 04, 2021
A new work-assistance program introduced by the Office of Homeless Services aims to help homeless Philadelphians land and keep their jobs by providing essential support.
Help for the Hurdles offers child care, transportation, career counseling and other services to people living in homeless shelters across the city.
More than 15,000 people experience homelessness in Philadelphia each year. Research has shown that things like transportation and childcare have been insurmountable barriers for some in search of employment.
"People experiencing homelessness want and need a living wage," said Marybeth Gonzales, deputy for Policy, Planning and Performance Management at the OHS. "This program leverages public-private partnerships to give people the support they need to succeed in reaching their financial and housing goals."
Participants of Help for the Hurdles will receive three months of services such as skills training, job placement, three monthly SEPTA passes and paid childcare. The program has been funded by the CARES Act for two years.
Help for the Hurdles operates on a rolling cycle of 25 participants at a time that started last Friday. OHS says it estimates reaching 800 people experiencing homelessness.
To be eligible, participants must be emergency shelter residents, employable, submit to a drug test, provide ID and be rapid-rehousing eligible, the city said. They can work with a case manager at a homeless shelter to get involved.
First Step Staffing, one of the city's partners for this initiative, places participants in jobs, provides job skills training and van transportation for those not near SEPTA lines.
Last week, First Step staff connected with participants at SELF Inc. sites and conducted skills assessments to determine which jobs they are best suited for, according to the Kensington Voice.
Participants start with light industrial jobs like sorting mail, packaging fruits and vegetables, baking bread and warehouse stocking with salaries ranging from $10.50 to $16.25 per hour. As they work their way through the program, the city will discuss career goals and future opportunities with them.
Organizers told the Kensington Voice they hope the program will create a network of support. Each cohort has 25 participants and they attend certification programs and financial literacy classes together.
This initiative is part of OHS's larger plan to connect people to employment and higher incomes, the Roadmap to Homes stated. The roadmap is a five year plan to make homelessness "rare, brief, and non-recurring in Philadelphia."