Homeless Young Adults Need Specialized Job Training
September 16, 2010
InvestigateWest interns Emily Holt and Cassandra Little, both 2010 graduates of Seattle University, spent three months working on a project about family homelessness as part of Seattle University's Journalism Fellowship on Family Homelessness. Seattle University received funding for the fellowship from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. InvestigateWest's full project on family homelessness will be published this fall.
InvestigateWest reporter Carol Smith worked closely with Holt and Little as they developed sources. Smith, who has years of experience reporting on complex social issues, mentored the Seattle University fellows as they explored different aspects of homelessness. Their work took each of them into the field where they spent hours observing and interviewing subjects for their stories. Here's a look at some of their work:
Young adults make up a fourth of the homeless population in Washington, yet very minimal research has been conducted on the job training needs of this population.
With unemployment high, and unemployment for young adults at a record 19 percent, jobs are scarce. For young adults without family resources and high school or college degrees, many of the hurdles for finding jobs are even higher.
Housing is an especially tough barrier in the Seattle metro area.
According to the Washington Center for Real Estate Research, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in King County is $917 per month. To reasonably afford a one-bedroom apartment in King County, a person has to make about $19 per hour.
But young adults are unlikely to qualify for a $19 per hour jobs without specialized job training programs to help prepare them for the workforce.
Homeless young adults, for example, may have not have learned basic life skills, such as budgeting and conflict resolution that would be helpful on the job. Many homeless young adults are often also in need of mental health services.
A national study found that 25 percent of former foster youth suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (double that of Vietnam war veterans), 20 percent from major depression, and 17 percent from social phobia. All of these disorders can negatively affect the young adult’s ability to succeed in the workplace.
The three most common aspects of successful job training programs are an atmosphere of support, mental health services, and the teaching of market-demanded, livable-wage jobs. If these three components are applied to new job training initiatives, homeless youth may be given a chance to succeed in the workforce and in turn, be able to maintain a permanent residence.
One organization that is successfully providing job training to homeless youth is the YMCA Center for Young Adults. The YMCA’s Working to Achieve Growth in Employment Skills (WAGES) program is funded by the City of Seattle’s Working Zone Initiative and serves about 6 young adults throughout the year.
The program offers 10 week internships that pay minimum wage. Participants work three to four days a week with partner organizations. To supplement the work, participants engage in two days of class per week where they learn life skills, tour technical colleges, and listen in on skill building workshops.
“This year, 28 young adults applied for six slots,” said YMCA Young Adult Center Director Julie Jacobson.
The six students are placed at one of four locations, which include Sanctuary Arts, a graphic design and screening company in the university district, ReStore, a recycling warehouse in Ballard, Treehouse, an organization that supports foster children, and the Amy Yee Orchard in the Rainier Valley, which supports sustainable farming.
“My pie in the sky dream for this program is to partner with retail chains like Starbucks or Subway that are willing to take a chance. The retail chain would pay the wages and the YMCA Center for Young Adults would provide the extra support to ensure that the young adults succeed in their position,” said Jacobson.
But the chance that retail chains will take a risk on these young adults is bleak. “This population is not as attractive as those who are older or have more experience,” Jacobson said.
However, the community should take the risk and invest in these young adults. A cost-benefit analysis for providing job training to homeless foster youth found that the training increased long-term tax revenue as well as decreased government expenses on health services, welfare payments, and housing.
Investing in homeless young adult job training programs can better our workforce and make lasting changes in the lives of those who may otherwise not get the chance to succeed.
Washington Center for Real Estate Research
Atkinson, M. (2008). Aging Out of Foster Care: Towards a Universal Safety Net for
Former Foster Care Youth. Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, 43, 183-212. http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/crcl/vol43_1/183-212.pdf
Lowen, A., Demirel, S., Estee, S., & Schreiner, B. (2001) A Study of Families Helped by Shelters and Their Use of Welfare and Social Services. Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. http://www.dshs.wa.gov/pdf/ms/rda/research/11/98.pdf
Pecora, P. J., Kessler, R. C., Williams, et al. (2006). Improving family foster care:
Findings from the Northwest Foster Care Alumni Study. Casey Family Programs.
Infrastructure | May 2014
Party politics have thwarted bridge safety improvements, and an investigation drags on to decide how the trucking company, its escort car and the state may share blame. Yet a new mapping tool for truckers may offer hope, Jason Alcorn reports.
Infrastructure | May 2014
Portable, modular or relocatable classrooms — whatever you call them — are a necessity for cash-strapped schools.
But many portables become permanent fixtures, in place for decades at a time. Costly and insufficient, these aging structures burden the grid, frustrate teachers and administrators and compromise student health.
Environment | April 2014
Energizing our world with wood sounds so natural. And it has quickly become a multibillion-dollar industry as governments including British Columbia and the European Union turn to biomass to replace dirty old coal. Yet what we found when we dug into the coal-vs.-wood debate will surprise you.
Public Health | April 2014
We update our 2013 series on Washington’s estimated fish consumption rate with news of a private meeting where Gov. Jay Inslee and his advisers wrestled with how much to protect business versus consumers when it comes to water pollution in the fish we eat.
Consumer Safety | April 2014
Manufacturers put a warning sticker on every ATV sold: The vehicles aren't meant for roads. But a push to allow just that is rolling out across the country. Washington and three other states passed new laws in 2013, among 22 states to allow or expand ATV access to roads since 2004.
Wealth & Poverty | December 2013
It's the unexpected catch in catch-share programs: A federal program that was supposed to help preserve and enhance the fishing economy in Kake, Alaska, has instead helped cause a severe decline. Meanwhile, 50 miles southeast, the town of Petersburg is booming.
The third part in our trilogy of fish stories examines the consequences catch-share policy where it was born, even as the model has been established in 14 other U.S. fisheries, encompassing dozens of species ranging from New England scallops to Pacific sole.
Foster Care | November 2013
State law now allows more kids to stay in foster care for an extra three years — until age 21. But many either refuse the help, or fail to qualify for it.
An investigation by KUOW in collaboration with InvestigateWest looks at why this transition to adulthood is trickier than expected – for foster kids, and for the state.
Public Health | September 2013
Of the roughly 50,000 kids who will attend Seattle schools this fall, nearly 2,000 will hit the books in classrooms within 500 feet of Interstate 5, InvestigateWest has found. This despite a body of evidence dating back decades that highway air pollution can cause lifelong respiratory problems and asthma attacks and boost school absenteeism.
From Seattle to Spokane, what can be done to make sure schools are healthy places for kids?
Photo: John Marshall JHS, 1963. SPSA 108-97.