The connections between employment, housing, childcare and transportation are abundantly clear—if working parents can’t get to their jobs, or find stable, affordable childcare, they won’t stay employed and be able to afford their housing. For families struggling with homelessness in Connecticut, navigating the maze of independent agencies overseeing each of these support systems has been time consuming and frustrating, which compounds the many challenges facing families trying to get back on their feet.
To address this complex problem, the Trust asked a simple question: ‘How can we make it easier for housing and job development systems to work together so they can better meet the unique needs of each family?’
That’s the overarching goal of Secure Jobs Connecticut—deepening ties and collaboration among housing, workforce and other agencies so they can better meet the full needs of parents transitioning from homelessness who want to support themselves. The initiative is based on the success of the Secure Jobs Massachusetts, which was created and led by the Paul and Phyllis Fireman Foundation.
“Staff from both systems reported that they have learned a great deal about the other system, including processes, programs and acronyms. Workforce staff said they gained a greater appreciation for the challenges facing families that are not stably housed, as well as the level of support that these families need to secure and maintain a job.” – Secure Jobs evaluation
Secure Jobs Connecticut started in 2015 as a three-year demonstration pilot for 230 families receiving rapid re-housing housing assistance, a state-funded program providing short-term rental assistance and case management support to parents. The goal of the pilot was to raise the income of families transitioning from homelessness by connecting them to the education, training, and supports they need to secure and maintain stable employment.
During this pilot, regional teams of housing providers, workforce boards, American Job Centers and support service agencies reimagined the process a parent would have to navigate in order to achieve better short- and long-term outcomes for themselves and their families. Support included flexible funds to help with childcare and transportation, assistance with job searches and interviews, and greater coordination across agencies to build a network of effective wrap-around services.
The Melville Trust’s Role
This was the Trust’s first initiative with a statewide funder collaborative. Beginning with four funders and the Department of Housing, the collaborative grew to include 25 by the launch, with the Trust serving as the largest investor. We have been excited to see participating funders working closely to support regional partners and connecting monthly to keep updated on the progress, successes and challenges of the pilot.
The Next Phase — Secure Jobs Connecticut 2.0
The robust and candid feedback we received from agencies and participants, along with the evaluation conducted by Cross Sector Consulting, highlighted changes that need to be made going forward.
It is clear that more has to be done to develop a workforce system that helps participants get higher wage jobs. For example, while parents earned more than they had before enrolling in Secure Jobs but most didn’t access a range of essential services at the American Job Center—such as training—that would have moved them to higher wage jobs.
Therefore, many still earned far below the household “survival budget.” In Connecticut, the wage needed to afford a typical 2-bedroom apartment is $24.72 per hour but the average Secure Jobs parent earned only $11.74 an hour.
Coordinated leadership across agencies is also critical to creating true systems change, and providing the level of individualized support Secure Jobs families need to keep their housing, train for and find higher paying jobs, navigate childcare and access reliable transportation.
- Focusing efforts toward obtaining a livable wage by encouraging state policies that improve the quality of low-skill jobs (pay, scheduling, etc.);
- Targeting systems change to improve access, speed, responsiveness and effectiveness of workforce services for families with barriers, and to meet urgent needs for income;
- Sustaining and expanding collaboration between the workforce, housing and childcare systems with better delineation of roles among participating agencies;
- Deeper engagement of high-level leadership in the public workforce system to help them lead systems change and coordinate efforts needed to make a larger impact for all families; and
- Bolstering consumer voice by including family representatives on advisory committees.
Regional grantees and funding partners
Three regional sites have committed to Secure Jobs 2.0: Southwest (Fairfield County), South Central (greater New Haven), and Middletown/ Meriden/ Wallingford.
Grantee: Career Resources
Total Funding Award: $100,000
Collaborating Foundations: Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, United Way of Coastal Fairfield County, New Canaan Community Foundation
South Central and Middletown, Meriden, Wallingford Regions (MMW)
Grantee: Workforce Alliance
Total Funding Awards: $87,500 for South Central Region and $85,500 for MMW
Collaborating Foundations: United Way of Greater New Haven, Liberty Bank Foundation, Peach Pit Foundation, Middlesex County Community Foundation, ION Bank, Meriden Community Foundation
For more information
Please contact Rebecca Allen, Senior Program Officer: firstname.lastname@example.org