Over the past decade, there has been a marked increase in the number of homeless individuals, especially the young adults, who are either exiting their previous residences, of are aging out of foster care systems. Due to this, policy programs have been put in place to act as temporary intervention measures, one of which is Transitional housing Program for Homeless Young Adults (THP). This research studies the relationship between the Transitional Living Program and job readiness among the homeless youths. The independent variable for this study is the successful participation in the Transitional Housing Program for the Homeless Young Adults and the employment training program. Dependent variables include reason for being homeless, level of education, educational attainment, age, length of time spent in transitional housing, current employment status (or duration in employment), program referral, job retention capacity, mental health status, and substance use. Survey method will be used to source for data, which will involve 251 participants between the age of 18-24. Study outcomes will be analyzed using statistical methods, that is, SPSS and Intercooled Stata. Finally, an analysis of implications of the study on policy and practice reveal relevance between this research and social work values and ethics.
Over the past years, the number of homeless people in many states has been on the increase, and the United States has particularly focused much attention on the plight of homeless young people as well as those that age out of foster care systems (Bloom, 2010). Researchers have explored the various challenges these two groups face, especially in connection to job readiness, thus the federal, local and state legislators have endeavored to devise means of facilitating change the lives of these young people. Instituted policies mostly focus on increased funding for support of independent living skills, housing, and education.
It is in this respect that the Transitional Housing Program for Homeless Young Adults (THP) was founded. It provides a wide range of services including housing, which comprises payment for utilities and rent; food vouchers, employment assistance, training on life-skills, transportation resources among others (Baider & Frank, 2006). Research has shown a close linkage between homelessness and job readiness, where people, especially the youth who transit from childhood to adulthood, as well as those that age out of foster care systems, stand higher chances of being unemployed due to lack of adequate training and skill acquisition.
This research analyzes the connection between the transitional housing program for the homeless youth and job readiness. The independent variable is the successful completion of the Transitional Housing Program for the Homeless Young Adults and the employment training program. Dependent variables include reason for being homeless, level of education, educational attainment, age, length of time spent in transitional housing, current employment status (or duration in employment), program referral, job retention capacity, mental health status, and substance use. The paper suggests that if these variables are analyzed, and adequately addressed, there would be a smoother transition of the homeless young adults from the streets to stable and reasonable housing.
An estimation of theoretical statistics of homelessness reveal that well over 3.5 million Americans are likely to become homeless, and the figure may experience an upward trend due increasing economic hardships. In a study done in Chicago in 1960s, it was found that about 28% of the homeless persons had full-time employment, but a recent study reveals a drop in this figure to 3% (Mayock, O’Sullivan & Corr, 2011). This shows that unemployment rates are quite high among the homeless, thus the necessity of efforts geared towards enabling a smooth transition of the young adults from homelessness to stable housing. Furthermore, having a high percentage of unemployed youth in an economy is disastrous, as social ills ultimately become pronounced due to idleness and lack of means of survival. For this reason, it becomes absolutely necessary to carry out this study into the relationship between the available housing transitional program and job readiness among the youth. The rationale behind this study is to analyze the parameters guiding how transitional housing program for young adults affect their degree of job readiness, enabling them to secure employment opportunities.
Ropers (1988) describes homelessness as “…a continuation of the process of displacement that stems from social and psychological disaffiliation from employment” (Ropers, 1988, p.122). After one becomes homeless, one’s disaffiliation from employment and any other job readiness training program becomes pronounced. The U.S Department of Labor defines homelessness as lack of fixed, regular, and proper night-time residence (Mayock, O’Sullivan & Corr, 2011). Following this definition alone, the Annual Homeless Assessment report done by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development reveals that in a single January night there were over 672, 000 homeless persons. The research further reveals that over 1.1 million individuals and homeless families were at least accorded support from transitional housing or emergency shelter programs (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2008). These figures have been on the increase in recent years, showing a worrying trend in the United States, as well as other countries. Baider & Frank (2006) point out that homeless individuals are likely to be unemployed, impoverished, disabled of underemployed. Moreover, they are likely to face difficulties regarding medical insurance covers and higher risks of illnesses as a result of unfavorable environmental and social living standards.
The Transitional Housing program for the Homeless Young Adults (THP), is a 12-18 month program that was developed by the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services to provide housing, including utilities and rent payment services; life-skills training; educational; assistance; employment assistance; transportation resources; food vouchers; and supportive services for case management to young adults between the ages of 18-21 (Bloom, 2010). Due to the realization of the overwhelming number of homeless youth and those aging out of foster care systems, this program was put in place to ensure a smooth transition for the youth so as to prepare them for the competitive working economy.
Most people who are at a risk or are experiencing homelessness have the zeal to work, though they might not possess the necessary skills needed for well-paying jobs. Since this category of individuals form a diverse group, various evidence-based and realistic approaches have been put in place to assist in transitions into stable houses and finally employment positions. Transition is one of the facets of the Individuals with Disability Education Act 1997, which emphasizes on teaching all students and youths to be as self-reliant as possible, especially after high school. Most transition teachers find it frustrating to assist students in acquiring these life-skills, only to fail to apply them appropriately in the field. Transition students may acquire the above skills, but without hands-on experience, practice and confidence, they will still not be ready for employment, and continue to rely on other people for survival. Moreover, homeless young adults are not at a position to engage in practical activities, of low-paying employment opportunities which can give them the necessary experience, since they have to make ends meet by doing odd, irrelevant jobs.
Jensen (2010), in his research done about the relationship between psychological wellness brought about by shelter comfort and success of job training program for the youth, found out that acquisition of skills and knowledge which are crucial for job readiness is hugely dependent on one’s comfort at home. One possible explanation given by Jensen (2010) is that homeless persons lack the full concentration and proper mind function needed for skill acquisition. In this regard, their self-esteem is also lowered, thus they are not at ease to participate in training programs. More so, a wide disparity is revealed in various studies between homeless youths who undertake an employment training program and those who have had care from biological or foster parents (Mayock, O’Sullivan & Corr, 2011). The latter are at a better position to secure employment after the training program, since they gain much confidence in their skills and feel much more at ease than their former. This also puts into the limelight how important it is to out in place effective transitional housing programs for the youth, if they are to be economically productive.
Throughout the past decades, increasing concern has been given to the plight of these homeless youths, as well as those who age out of foster care. Homeless young adults, being at the ages of 18-24, are too old to access these services and comfort of homeless shelters for adolescents. Moreover, they tend not to want to utilize adult shelters due to fear of victimization and predation. In this regard, they have very few resources at their disposal, while their number is alarming. A survey done on homeless assistance providers reveals that in a sample of 2938 people, 11% of the total number were found to be homeless young adults, translating into around 385, 000 in the age group of 18-24 being homeless each year (Drury, 2008). A segment of this percentage had a history of foster care. Some estimates show that even greater percentages of young adults who are in need of transitional housing programs are either aging out of foster care, or have run out of it (Griffin, Hammis & Shaheen, 2010). In the California foster care unit, out of the 4355 youths who emancipated from the program, 2831, or 65% were basically homeless after the emancipation (Kroner, 2007). These form a category of people who cannot end for themselves, and have limited skills needed in the job market.
Many of these youths, who emancipate from foster care systems experience challenges and difficulties in blending in the society, to participate in acquisition of life-skills and employment training programs. Some of these difficulties, apart from those related to employment and job training include: medical care inaccessibility, adjustment difficulties, likelihood of occurrence of mental health problems, problems of substance abuse, early pregnancy, and incarceration (Drury, 2008). Thus, many of these youths end up receiving services from the criminal justice or other welfare systems. (Carter, 2010) found out that out of the 113 youths emancipating from foster care, 10% females and 14% males were homeless for at least one night after the process. These youths also grow up without a sense of protection leading to lack of confidence, limited affection, encouragement and intimacy associated with close family contact (Griffin, Hammis & Shaheen, 2010). All these affect the success of an employment training program to such a youth, and consequently, job readiness.
Similarly, other young adults who lack proper shelter, or who are basically homeless, experience more or less the same tragedies as those who emancipate from foster care. Mental health, substance abuse and medical problems are just but a few of them (Drury, 2008). These problems can be long-standing, or be effective in exacerbating the influence of homelessness on job readiness. When these adults leave their previous homes permanently in search of their own, the stand at a risk of numerous problems, including further abuse of substance, victimization, health problems, educational problems, engagement in criminal activity and adult homelessness (Kroner, 2007). More importantly, they are disadvantaged in the labor market due to inadequate skills to cope up with the demanding and competitive environment. Other relevant factors may also be poor verbal skills, academic deficits, lack of on-job experience and socially and culturally unacceptable behavior (Griffin, Hammis & Shaheen, 2010). These factors pose a great challenge to the transitional housing program for the homeless youth, since they form part of the independent variables to the success of the program.
Despite the challenges mentioned above, there is increased focus on training of the homeless youths and those who age out of foster care systems (Griffin, Hammis & Shaheen, 2010). This is an effort that is geared towards making these individuals independent and functional in the society. It is expected that adequate training may effectively function as a link to stable careers and employment opportunities for these transitional population. Yet, engaging and actively participating in these training and life-skills programs may be challenging and difficult for these individuals especially the homeless lot, who have limited experience in searching for jobs (Carter, 2010). Similarly, successful retention of jobs for those individuals who are lucky to secure opportunities is heavily dependent on the skills and experience acquired during their foster care periods (National Transitional Jobs Network, 2010). Warland (2011) carried out a research on 732 young adults who were previously in foster care, and revealed that 35% of the youth were in current employment, while 47.7% had been employed at least once during their period of care. About 30% of these young adults reported that they had received some training either through a training program, or through job corps, which illustrates how important a role training plays in job readiness (Carter, 2010).
Generally, homeless young adults have had problems associated with participating in employment training programs. Qualitative researches conducted in this respect in order to determine responsiveness to a transitional housing program and employment training program for the youth, including 16 youth participants, revealed that 70% of the total number left the streets and secured employment while the remaining had difficulties in retaining their jobs (National Transitional Jobs Network, 2010). While these researches prove that training programs are crucial for the homeless youth, as well as those exiting foster care, it also provides substantial evidence that there are numerous underlying factors that influence the outcome of such initiative. However, the density of respondents/participants used in the survey is small and cannot be used to make substantial conclusions. In a study that is meant to generate reliable evidence, the number of participants needs to be larger and sampling done in a representative manner.
The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (2008), states that the general means to homelessness is one leaving someone else’s residence. Apart from this, the National Coalition for the Homeless (2008) lists alternative causes of homelessness including domestic violence, mental illnesses, financial wherewithal to take of rent and utilities, substance abuse, unaffordable health care, and emancipation from foster care. Though there are policies put in place to assist the homeless, they are still inadequate to address the alarming rates triggered by advancement in economic standards; as well as consequences of HIV/AIDS (Griffin, Hammis & Shaheen, 2010). As a result, many youths become homeless way before their transition age. Some of the policies under this program include Emergency Shelter Grant, Supportive Housing, Shelter Care Plus, and Single Room Occupancy (Jones, 2011). The last one is the most commonly used among the youth who are under the transitional housing program. (Chronic Homelessness Employment Technical Assistance Center, 2008) suggests that for the homeless youth to achieve independence and self-reliance, adequate support and time must be awarded to them so as to enable a successful transition into permanent housing, as well as stable jobs. However, most of these housing and training programs for the homeless youths face a wide array of challenges including inadequate funding, lack of published materials for the homeless youth undergoing training, and lack of follow-up procedures to ascertain the success of the program (Jones, 2011).
Research Design and Methodology
This is an explanatory research, which will employ a cohort, cross-sectional research design. It will seek to elaborate on the relationship that exists between Transitional Housing program and employment training program, as mutually correlational parameters. In this regard, the dependent and independent variables will be measured using a 5-point Likert scale in which various dimensions of variables will be availed for an elaborate and informative computation. The goal of the research work is to examine the how the transitional housing program for the homeless young adults is related to their job readiness.
All the youths that will be eligible to participate in the research must meet the certain criteria. For instance, all must between the ages of 18-24. In addition, they were living in a homeless shelter, or were marginally housed in a transitional housing program at the research is conducted. They must also be participating in an employment training program during their time of homelessness, or transitional occupancy. Additionally, they must have attained at least eighth grade in their educational life; and must have successfully completed a 4-week training program in readiness for employment.
The sample will consist of 251 young homeless adults, 60% males and 40% females, who successfully completed a 4-week employment training program between April 2012 and April 2013. All data will be based on those extracted from the databases of the agency offering the training program. All the demographic characteristics and variables as well as outcomes and initial functioning will be analyzed depending on the participant’s current condition of living as a young adult ( whether they spent some time under foster care of lived entirely with parents until attaining the age of 18).
Participants will be given the liberty to choose whether they would want to participate in the study. No coercive measure will be employed, as this would not guarantee legitimacy and authenticity of study outcomes. Confidentiality of every survey outcome will be ensured, and this will be communicated to the participants in prior, so as to increase their confidence with the program. A contract form will be prepared where every participant will have to append a signature of consent, so as to take care of any possible arising legal battles. The participants will be briefed on the importance of such a study, for instance, that it will be able to help future individuals of similar nature, and help address the plight of transitional young adults in the society. This will be used to convince the would-be-participants to give free and voluntary consent to the study.
Operationalization of Variables
The independent variable for this study is the successful participation in the Transitional Housing Program for the Homeless Young Adults and the employment training program. Participants will therefore be vetted based on their performance in the two programs. Those youths who successfully completed the training program (SC) will be 147, while those who broke mid-way will be 104. This information will be gathered from the participants’ individual reports at the agency. Dependent variables include reason for being homeless, level of education, educational attainment (the highest grade achieved in the senior-most educational level), age, length of time spent in transitional housing, current employment status (or duration in employment), program referral, job retention capacity (having been employed in at least 20-hour per week job, and having maintained for at least 3 months), mental health status (having been observed as experiencing any mental health issues, or currently under DSM-IV diagnosis), and substance use (currently or previously engaged in consumption of illicit substances at least once per week). All the variables which are aforementioned will be used to assess the relationship between transitional housing program and job readiness, taking into account the historical life of the participant.
A questionnaire will be provided where participants will be required to give closed answers, with simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’, or ticking in the appropriate boxes. A cross-tabulation will then be conducted between the outcomes of the various variables set forth to be tested. Success of the two programs will be analyzed by use of SPSS and Intercooled Stata.
Implications for Policy and Practice
This study would provide very important piece of information on the plight of the homeless youths, and give deep insights on their plight and how to best manage their situation. Some of the crucial bits of information that it would provide include what causes homelessness among the young adults; what risks is this transitional population prone to during their period of moving from their previous residences, or when emancipating from foster homes; how best can the problem of homelessness be addressed, since other researches have revealed that there is an alarming increase in the number of not only homeless youths, but also adults, especially those aging out of foster care; it would also serve to inform professionals on the best approach that should be given to an employment training program, and elaborate follow-up procedures, which should be employed to ensure a successful implementation of such initiatives. In addition, it will also provide an insight on the effects that homelessness has on youths who are transiting from childhood to adulthood, especially, with regards to skill acquisition, and securing of job opportunities in the competitive market (National Transitional Jobs Network, 2010).
Substance abuse is one of the most outstanding cultural issues in the case of young adults (Carter, 2010). The study will be able to reveal the likelihood of such population to engage in consumption of illicit substances. In retrospect, these substances have adverse effects, not only on the mental health of the youths, but also on the intelligence and ability to acquire skills which are crucial for job readiness. Review of literature shoes that irrespective of what extent of employment training programs implementation, there is still some degree of fall-out among the youthful participants who were previously homeless, or had at one particular time received shelter in foster units. The main reason behind this is exposure to illicit substances, which degenerate their mental capabilities, and make it difficult to blend in easily into normal training and employment programs. Similarly, the attainment of the age of 18 is a cultural issue that has not been properly handled, as this study is likely to reveal. Youths are left on their own after reaching 18 years, without proper housing and income generating mechanisms (Dybicz, 2012). These youths end up engaging in criminal activities like theft and robbery to make end meet (Carter, 2010). As a professional social worker, this study should be able to inform one on the extended ramifications of such cultural systems, thus enabling one to develop holistic strategies for the same.
In every social work, there is a right way of doing things, which is uncontroversial and is accepted by everyone (Dybicz, 2012). Values in social work usually take the form of the general principles that guide how social professional workers should treat people, and what of those actions are viewed as wrong or right. Handling of the homeless transitional youth, just like any other social work, requires strict observance of values and ethics. The Transitional housing program for the homeless young adults is one significant area that must be conducted evenly, considering all the historical backgrounds of the participants (Griffin, Hammis & Shaheen, 2010). In addition, in the training program for job readiness, all participants, regardless of the sexual orientation, sex, financial status, health condition, and age among others should be incorporated and their interests taken into consideration. Social work values and ethics are therefore very relevant in this field, as they function as guiding principles to execution of duties and strategies.
Bloom, D. (2010). Transitional Jobs: Background, program models, and evaluation evidence. New York, NY:
Carter E. W. (2010). Summer employment and comunity experences of transition-age youth with severe disabilities. Exceptional Children, 194-212.
Chronic Homelessness Employment Technical Assistance Center. (2008). Ending chronic homelessness through employment and housing: A programand policy handbook forsuccessfully linking supportive housing and employmentservicesfor chronically homeless adults.
Dybicz, P. (2012). The Ethic of Care: Recapturing Social Work’s First Voice. Social Work, 57(3), 271-280.
Griffin, C., Hammis, D., & Shaheen, G. (2010). Work as a priority: Self employment and social enterprise. (5). Richmond, VA: Virginia Commonwealth University, Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Workplace Supports and Job Retention.
National Coalition for the Homeless. (2008). A dream denied: The criminalization of homelessness in U.S. cities. Retrieved April 3, 2013 from http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/criminalization.html
National Transitional Jobs Network. (2010). Transitional Jobs program design elements. Chicago, IL: Author
Ropers, R. H. (1988). The invisible homeless: A new urban ecology. New York: Human Sciences Press.
Warland, C. (2011). Ensuring the transitional job is a developmental experience. Chicago, IL: National Transitional Jobs Network.