Many Coloradans become homeless after losing a job because it’s nearly impossible to pay rent without sufficient income and savings. To further complicate matters, it’s much more difficult to search for employment without stable housing. In metro Denver, over 30 percent of those experiencing homelessness have worked in the past month. But in today’s economy, the reliability and consistency of work hours may vary — particularly for those with the lowest-wage jobs.
Recently, the Colorado Center on Law and Policy (CCLP) received a significant grant from the Butler Family Fund that is designed to improve employment prospects for Colorado’s homeless population by streamlining education, skills training and support services that will help them secure better-paying jobs. The grant will enable CCLP to advocate for specific provisions in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) State Implementation Plan to better serve those who have recently experienced homelessness. CCLP will then take its advocacy a step farther by addressing the needs of homeless people at the workforce-center level. WIOA was approved by Congress and President Obama in 2014, but Colorado’s WIOA State Implementation Plan must be submitted by March 3, 2016.
Under the new WIOA, workforce boards and job centers are supposed to pivot. While still employer driven, they are required to give priority of service to populations who have barriers to employment –including those who lack basic skills, those who rely on public assistance, youth who are out-of-school and out-of-work and those experiencing homelessness. This will require a significant shift in the planning and implementation of WIOA funded services here in Colorado.
Passage of WIOA did not include new funding, but it did call for improved coordination between groups that serve job-seekers and employers. The Butler Family Fund grant will support CCLP’s efforts to work with policymakers and administrators in workforce-related positions to ensure that WIOA implementation enhances the opportunity for Colorado’s most vulnerable population.
The grant will step up CCLP’s work with WIOA as it pertains to Colorado’s homeless population. CCLP is already immersed in the WIOA planning process. For over three years, we have coordinated the Skills2Compete Colorado Coalition, which advocated for WIOA’s passage on a national level in partnership with the National Skills Coalition.
In implementing the grant, CCLP will work with specific individuals, groups and coalitions either through attending their regular meetings, or through one-on-one meetings or convening as a group. The groups include the Employment Subcommittee of Denver’s Road Home, the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative and Colorado’s Director of Homeless Initiatives. In addition, there are a number of direct-service providers serving the homeless with whom we have worked on other poverty-related issues.
The Butler Family Fund invests in organizations, partnerships and networks that change public policy to support the people most affected by extreme poverty. With a longstanding interest in ending homelessness, the fund has most recently focused on investments in programs and collaborations that create pathways out of homelessness through employment.
We are honored that the Butler Family Fund is entrusting us to advocate for a state plan that will ultimately help more Coloradans secure employment and leave homelessness behind.
– By Chaer Robert