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 Disability Program Navigator: Navigator Frequently Asked Questions 

24(Basic/Advanced)  How can I help to increase access to One-Stop Career Center services by people who are homeless and promote more collaboration with homeless programs?

(DPN Bi-Weekly FAQ 7-10-06 ) – Updated March 2010 )

DOL -Partner FAQ (s)

The 2006 Disability Program Navigator (DPN) Leadership Series focused on learning more about other Department of Labor (DOL) programs, and took place from May through October 2006. Several FAQ s will address these topics which were covered in the leadership series.  The DOL -Partner FAQ s will provide DPNs who were not able to participate in the audio conference series the opportunity to learn more about these programs and how they may collaborate to improve access for individuals with disabilities. The DOL -Partner FAQ s may also serve as a summary for those DPNs who participated in the audio conference series to refer to for additional resources and strategies for building partnerships with DOL programs.

While the lack of affordable housing is reported as the leading cause of homelessness, other major causes include low-paying jobs, mental illness, substance abuse, domestic violence, unemployment, poverty, and prisoner re-entry (Status Report on Hunger and Homelessness in America’s Cities [ http://usmayors.org/pressreleases/uploads/USCMHungercompleteWEB2009.pdf ] .  According to the 27 cities surveyed by the United States Conference of Mayors in 2009, an average of 27% of homeless people are mentally ill; 15% are domestic violence victims; 20% are employed; and 14 percent are veterans. It is also reported that while a considerable amount of people who are homeless are eligible for public benefits, they do not receive the help they need. This is evident in an estimate provided by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (July 2004) indicating that 40% of homeless persons with disabilities are eligible for SSI, but only 11 percent actually receive it ([ http://www.nlchp.org/hapia.cfm ].

Although it is essential that people who are homeless receive information about all available benefits they are entitled to, it is important to note that the types of assistance that adults and families who are homeless felt they needed most were help finding a job, help finding affordable housing, and help paying for housing [ http://www.homeless.org/do/Home ].  The types of supports usually received were clothing, transportation, and help with public benefits. As the Disability Program Navigator (DPN), the connections you develop with programs that serve people who are homeless can not only help to ensure access to available community resources and benefits, but also provide invaluable information about training and employment opportunities offered through the One-Stop Career Centers and other partners.

There are several key factors to keep in mind as you reach out to programs that serve people who are homeless. It would be helpful to first become familiar with the benefits of employment for people who are homeless. During the May 2006 DPN Audio Conference Series on ‘Collaboration and Coordination with Programs Serving People who are Homeless’, Gary Shaheen, Managing Director for Advocates for Human Potential, lists the following responses to the question, “Why should employing people who are chronically homeless matter?”

  • Aging American workforce - 40% over age 55 by 2010
  • Costs for health and related care - People who work use less treatment services
  • ‘Civil Society’ - Healthy communities is everybody’s business
  • Core American philosophy - Productive employment is an American value
  • Concerns of businesses and downtowns - Street homelessness affects businesses
  • Unrealized economic potential - Joblessness equals lost skills, productivity, economic growth

As a DPN, you most likely have already established linkages with a wide variety of community organizations and have a broad knowledge base on Federal, State and local services and resources that can impact the ability of individuals with disabilities to enter and remain in the workforce. This information will be extremely useful to pass on when reaching out to homeless programs and shelters.  However, it will also be helpful to learn more about Department of Labor (DOL ) and other government-wide programs that directly impact people who are homeless prior to conducting outreach. These programs are listed below and described in more detail in the supporting document, ‘DOL and Other Government Programs that Support Homeless Initiatives’.

United States Department of Labor Programs to Serve People who are Homeless

  • Workforce Investment Act: Mainstream Programs
  • Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program
  • Ending Chronic Homelessness Through Employment and Housing Projects
  • Prisoner Reentry: Ready4Work - A Business, Faith, Community & Criminal Justice Partnership

Other Government-wide Programs to Serve People who are Homeless

  • Interagency Council on Homelessness: State and Local Initiatives
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development Programs for the Homeless
  • Department of Veterans Affairs: Assistance for Homeless Veterans
  • Department of Health and Human Services Homelessness Resources: Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH)
  • Social Security Administration: Homeless Outreach Projects and Evaluation
  • Other Resources: Community Voice Mail

You may also want to review a helpful new resource developed by the United StatesDepartment of Health and Human Services and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development called FirstStep.  This is an easy-to-use, interactive tool for outreach workers or others working with people who are homeless that provides information on a variety of Federal and state benefit government assistance programs for which people may be eligible and/or entitled, including One-Stop Career Center services, Food Stamp and housing assistance, SSI /SSDI, TANF and VA benefits assistance, and health care assistance. [ http://www.hhs.gov/homeless/ ]

After you have learned more about homeless initiatives in your region, there are a few other key factors to keep in mind prior to developing connections. Discuss your outreach plans to homeless programs/shelters and share the resources you have gathered with your One-Stop Career Center management to gauge their level of support in serving customers who are homeless. It may also be helpful to talk with several disability partners as well, such as Vocational Rehabilitation and Department of Mental Health, to inquire about their connections to local programs/shelters that serve people who are homeless. These discussions may provide the opportunity to hear about different perceptions on the meaning of ‘job-readiness’, viewpoints on their system’s capacity to serve people who are homeless, and any misconceptions held that could create barriers to effectively serving people who are homeless. These conversations can also provide insight to the type of training that would orient One-Stop Career Center staff and/or other disability agencies on serving people who are homeless.  Review the following concepts and resources offered by Gary Shaheen during the May 2006 DPN Audio Conference Series on ‘Collaboration and Coordination with Programs Serving People who are Homeless,’ which may challenge some systems’ beliefs on providing employment services to people who are homeless.

Readiness to Work Challenge:

  • Redefine what we mean by “job ready” - Recognize natural skills and strengths that are inherent from survival and homelessness. Allow flexible measure of success.
  • Redefine what we mean by “work” - Many people who are homeless are natural entrepreneurs and may have experience operating their own small businesses. Recognize these skills and strengths in assessing the type of work people who are homeless are capable of doing.
  • Meet people “where they are” - Recognize that many people who are homeless have dealt with a lot of failures and issues in their lives and that helping to build motivation and skills to get back to work may be a process.
  • Partnerships are essential in serving people who are homeless - Partner with providers that provide early access to work engagement and familiarity with the One-Stop Career Center system.

The information you gather about and from homeless programs in your region may be the first step to assisting your One-Stop Career Centers, Local Workforce Investment Board and other community partners to collaborate more effectively to serve people who are homeless.


Publication June 23, 2006 : Boston University and Community Work Services announce initial results of study to improve job retention rate among Homeless with disabilities
[ http://www.cwsbos.com/news-06-23-06.php ]

This study, funded by a grant from the United States Department of Education’s National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) and conducted by Boston University and Community Work Services (CWS), indicates that ending homelessness must focus not only on finding permanent housing, but also on implementing services and programs that provide work and life supports. The long term demonstration program has shown that successful employment for persons who are homeless is possible.

United States Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration: Homelessness Resource Center
[ http://www.homeless.samhsa.gov/ ]
SAMHSA created the Homelessness Resource Center to assist people who are homeless and those people who are serving the homeless population in obtaining treatment and other services such as primary health care, substance abuse treatment, legal assistance, entitlements, and other supports, while making the transition from homelessness. This online Resource Center contains links to state homelessness projects, trainings, and additional resources that will assist people who are homeless. The site offers several resources under the topics section that range from “Best Practices for Providers” to “Mental Health” and “Homelessness Prevention” as well as a multiple fact sheets, articles and publications that discuss strategies around serving the homeless population.

United States Department of Housing and Urban Development Homes and Communities: Community Planning and Development: Resources for Homeless Persons
[ http://www.hud.gov/offices/cpd/homeless/resources.cfm ]
The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds programs to assist people who are homeless. These programs are managed by local organizations called “homeless assistance agencies.” This site provides links to local agencies who serve homeless populations as well as resources that can assist persons who are homeless with housing, food, and health care.

Note to DPNs: If you have comments, suggestions or questions relating to the above topic, please email DJ Diamond at ddiamond@ndi-inc.org . They may be added to this FAQ and the archived one on the One-Stop Toolkit website.