Way Finders has been participating in the Secure Jobs Initiative (SJI) over the last four years. We believe that given the current funding environment for housing subsidies – there aren’t enough to go around – focusing on job readiness, skills training, job placement, as well as increasing income for those who are employed is more productive for improving housing stability and financial resiliency for homeless and extremely low-income families. This aligns with Way Finders’ core value of taking a holistic view of our clients, meeting them “where they are” and coaching them towards increased self-sufficiency.

SJI participants are “ready, willing and able” to work. We assess participants’ career plans and skill sets, as well as the barriers they face to employment and help them find their way around these barriers. Job Developers support participants in obtaining employment and beyond, providing ongoing support in retaining their employment for one year, 86% of participants maintain employment at 12 months. The outcomes we have been able to produce are impressive and we believe that we and our partners are really on to something.

Through the first quarter of this year, 483 SJI participants have been employed since 2013 in western Massachusetts. The average wage over these four years has increased 19.4% to $12.49. In the last month of reporting the average wage was $15, well above Massachusetts’ minimum wage of $11 an hour.  We continue to surpass our goals in all areas of this initiative, from assessments, enrollments to placements and far surpassing even most industry standards. We find more than a way to employment, we find ways for families to move out of shelter, into both subsidized and unsubsidized units and maintain those tenancies. Families have been able to maintain unsubsidized, market rate housing through gaining employment and increasing the household income and we have drastically reduced the need for a family to return to shelter. We recognize that at times it can take more than one income in a household to make ends meet and our team works with multiple adults in the family to become employed while connecting families to day care resources providing nontraditional hours.

By all accounts, this model is effective in producing results and we believe that it is cost-effective too. Moving families from shelter units and even subsidized housing units saves the Commonwealth money and can free up the limited housing vouchers that are available for those who really need them. And having residents earning a wage that supports their families in keeping a roof over their heads is important to the economic vitality of our region. This is just one of the strong examples of Way Finders helping individuals and families throughout the region find their way to safe, secure housing, stronger neighborhoods and thriving communities.

To see the Secure Jobs Initiative in action click here.

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