As a homeless neighbor, if you happen to successfully move past all the hurdles involved in securing employment—good health, clean attire, access to self care and sanitary resources, enough food to maintain sustainable energy levels and the confidence to put you ahead of other candidates—your job challenges have just begun.
Lack of Resources
Most jobs that are attainable for people who are experiencing homelessness are part-time, extremely low paid and require long shifts. If you don’t have a safe place to rest, freshen up, clean your wardrobe and care for any family members you may have, it is almost an impossible feat.
Those who live with friends or have vehicles are in a much better position to continue to work as they can store belongings and supplies, usually have transportation to their place of work and can sleep more safely.
Danielle Williams who lives in her Chrysler Town and Country minivan, has been working temporary jobs since she was laid off from an accounting job. Her income does not afford her a place to live, but it does cover basic living expenses. Her paychecks are just enough to maintain her current situation, but not to achieve upward mobility.
One of the more troubling realities of unhoused employment is there is no protection against discrimination for housing status. In 2012, a California bill was put forward that would ban workplace discrimination on the basis of housing status, but the bill was opposed and did not get passed.
Not only are employees like Williams at a greater risk of harassment and isolation, their employment status is not protected. It is technically legal for those who are or become homeless to be fired. Many individuals feel forced to hide their living situation from their employer. This only makes their lives more challenging, given that homelessness involves unpredictable health, safety and childcare issues.
At the same time, individuals like Nereida, an optometrist's assistant, says she’s had trouble receiving housing services because her work-appropriate appearance makes her appear less “homeless” than other individuals. While she’s afraid of discrimination at work for not having housing, she’s also not given the same level of supportive attention she deserves from the government and community.
Addressing the Issues
United Way of Greater Los Angeles’ local housing partners, such as L.A. Family Housing, are committed to serving individuals in L.A. County who are either employed or unemployed. In acknoweldgement of these serious employment challenges, United Way’s recent Labor Day campaign raised donations and spread awareness about those who work without housing.
As a community, let’s never forget that homelessness is not always visible and employment is only part of the solution. And as formerly homeless neighbor Sue put it at Everyone In™ Stories From the Frontline, “Homelessness is a full-time gig” in and of itself.
United Way of Greater Los Angeles partners with organizations across Los Angeles County to help our vulnerable neighbors come home for good. You can see the work of one of our partners here. Visit EveryoneInLA.org for information about how you join us and help to end homelessness in L.A. County and find out more at UnitedWayLA.org.