October 23, 2019Blog

Job Hunting for Those Facing Housing Insecurity


By: Devin Morrissey

It’s no secret that those who end up homeless, no matter the underlying reasons, face extreme difficulties when it comes to getting out of the cycle of homelessness. Securing stable housing is a multi-faceted process that involves securing employment, participating in case management, pursuing treatment for mental health disorders and/or addiction, and working through legal issues.

For the 5-10% of homeless individuals who live with a dog by their side, breaking the cycle can be even more difficult, especially when it comes to employment opportunities. When forced to choose between their pet and a job opportunity, many homeless people end up turning down that job offer rather than give up their beloved companion.

Figuring out what to do with pets is just one of the job-hunting roadblocks that affect the homeless and those facing housing insecurity. The unfortunate reality is that there are plenty of additional employment barricades, such as the inability to pass a pre-employment background check and the lack of reliable transportation to and from the workplace.

If you’re seeking employment opportunities yet lack a permanent address, don’t lose hope. Start small, ensuring that you have all the necessary legal documents in hand, including your driver’s license and social security card, as well as an updated resume. In addition, you may want to seek out employment training opportunities that can give you a leg up, especially if you were previously unemployed for a significant length of time.

Finding Fulfilling Employment

For those facing housing insecurity, the good news is that the job hunting process isn’t impossible. You may just need to broaden your search to encompass nonprofit organizations, clinics, and companies that provide services to homeless and low-income populations. As you have firsthand experience with housing insecurity, you may be an ideal candidate to assist others working to put their lives back together.

For instance, if you’re part of an underserved community, you may be motivated to work for a low-cost/nonprofit clinic that serves one or more of these groups. The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) defines underserved communities as “groups of people who struggle to access health care for any number of reasons,” reports Bradley University. Homeless individuals fall under the banner of “underserved,” as do individuals without health insurance, the elderly, and those with limited mobility due to disability.

Some of those facing housing insecurity have the good fortune of living in communities with plenty of job opportunities for the underserved. In cities with significant homeless populations, local businesses are increasingly making an effort to hire the underserved. For example, Portland, Oregon’s Central City Concern, an offshoot of the Central City Coffee company, provides various types of assistance to the chronically homeless. Central City Concern’s six-month training program provides housing and pays participants while also teaching concepts such as sales, customer service, production, and more.

Navigating the Job Search Process

Meanwhile, in Atlanta, an innovative non-profit helps homeless people to get a valid ID, without which they are typically unable to secure employment. Established in 2017, Mini City volunteers and employees work to streamline the process of acquiring vital documents including social security cards, state IDs, and birth certificates.

But providing documentation is only a small part of the job search process:  In order to get a job fast, you’re also likely to require a resume and engaging cover letter. Fortunately, numerous online resources exist that can guide you through the process of creating a resume and/or cover letter that will impress hiring managers.

Finally, some employers may request a background check prior to offering you a job. Pre-employment background checks typically differ from housing-related background checks, which typically encompass your credit, criminal, and rental history. Prospective employers may only end up looking at your criminal history, unless you’re applying for a government job. In that case, your background check is likely to be much more extensive. If you’re worried about current legal situations or past criminal charges that may affect employment opportunities, you may want to seek guidance from a case manager. Along with the background check, there will likely be a drug test. If part of your homelessness has stemmed from drug abuse, you may need to get treatment before you can successfully land a job.

There’s no need to disclose your housing situation when applying for a job. It’s completely acceptable to leave your address off of your application document if you’re not comfortable saying that you live in a shelter, or if you have no address to give. However, if you receive a job offer, you may want to share your living situation with your immediate supervisor and/or human resources department.

As for what to do with your pet while you seek employment, as well as after you’ve secured a job, you can look into local options for fostering your pet until you can save enough to afford housing. If you have a family member or friend who is willing to house your pet while you work, this is ideal. If that’s not an option, you can check with local shelters to see if they offer any short-term fostering services for people in need. The most expensive option is a doggie day care or kenneling business; these aren’t the most ideal, but if all else fails, they are options to consider. The thought of being away from your pet for any amount of time can be stressful, but remember that it’s a temporary solution for a lifetime of stability.

Keeping Your Head Up in the Face of Adversity

It’s important to understand that having a steady job doesn’t guarantee stable, affordable housing. The so-called “working homeless” is a growing subset of those who face housing insecurity, the majority of whom are single parents. The New American reports that, as of August 2019, close to 7 million Americans with full-time jobs live below the poverty line. Low take-home pay, combined with rising rent costs and a lack of tenant protections in most major metropolitan areas, means that it’s increasingly difficult to secure and maintain housing.

At the same time, having a job enables you to save money that you can put towards a security deposit. It also gives you a sense of purpose and may help you stay positive, both of which are fundamental for those facing housing insecurity. So get your resume and other documents in order, and put yourself out there. It may take time, but homelessness doesn’t have to be a barrier toward fulfilling employment and greater economic security.