The World of Work: A Spotlight on Runaway and Homeless Youth
Consistent with President Trump’s Executive Order on Reducing Poverty in America by Promoting Opportunity and Economic Mobility, HHS’s Strategic Plan sets goals for HHS to encourage self-sufficiency and personal responsibility, and eliminate barriers to economic opportunity and to prepare children and youth for healthy, productive lives. This blog is part of the Self-Sufficiency Series: Solutions from the Field, which profiles local programs from across the country finding solutions to accomplish these goals.
For runaway and homeless youth with severe trauma, a weak or non-existent social support system, and other significant barriers, the personal responsibility of attaining self-sufficiency can be overwhelming. HHS’s Strategic Plan and the President’s Executive Order on Reducing Poverty in America recognize the value of eliminating barriers to economic opportunity. HHS invests in achieving this goal through the Family and Youth Services Bureau’s transitional living programs (TLP) which provide a safe and stable living environment, and a strong emotional support system, to help youth achieve self-sufficiency.
While many TLP staff provide employment resources, some programs are partnering with local job training and employment assistance organizations to provide targeted individualized support to youth in preparing them for meaningful jobs.
For example, the Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin, in Green Bay, has developed a creative approach to job training and developing employment skills, based on a youth’s career interests. The TLP, in coordination with a Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act-funded Pathways to Employment program, provides specialized services, working to address employment barriers and challenge preconceived notions regarding readiness to work. The results are positive: Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin reports that 80 percent of the 15 youth enrolled in the program completed the Career Exploration curriculum, 73 percent gained employment, and one-third of the youth participants are enrolled in the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College preparing for careers in nursing and automotive.
This partnership seems to make a significant impact on youth. For example, after her referral by the TLP to the employment program, “Tamara Jankins” (not her real name), a 20-year-old mother of two, enrolled in the Youth Work Experience program and soon realized that auto mechanics was her passion. The program connected Tamara to an Auto Mechanics technical program at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, where she is studying to be a Certified Auto Mechanic - an in-demand career field.
Being homeless, 21-year-old “Jacob Francisco” (not his real name) was struggling with continuing his education. After his referral to the Pathways to Employment program, he received individualized support and guidance with enrolling in the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. The college and program partnered to offer him partial tuition, and he is now working toward completing his degree in electro-mechanical technology and has a promising future ahead.
Providing access to training and education as well as to affordable housing and supportive services relieves a major barrier for youth like Jacob to become self-sufficient and lead healthy, productive lives. Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin and other runaway and homeless youth programs across the country, funded by the Family and Youth Services Bureau, are developing creative strategies to eliminate barriers to economic opportunity in youth.
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