The Initiative

Let’s Get to Work is a multi-organizational Work Collaborative of businesses, faith-based organizations and non-profits in Austin, TX developing a 20 person working model to move homeless persons from transitional housing through program management, job training and living wages towards permanent housing and self sufficiency.

A Unique Opportunity

There are many individuals, our neighbors, who for various reasons (many economic) find themselves experiencing homelessness.  Many of these individuals welcome any opportunity to learn new skills, attain work and earn a self-supporting wage. Traditional avenues of job training and placement are overwhelmed with the current demand for their assistance serving only one in ten applicants at best. The Texas Work Force Commission readily acknowledges that it can only begin to serve the most prepared and capable job seekers.

The “Let’s Get to Work Initiative” wishes to address the wasted human potential evidenced by our burgeoning shelters and people standing on our street corners asking for help and work.

Statistical surveys conducted by the City of Houston, the City of Austin and by the House The Homeless organization, all indicate a high desire to work by this population and to work at jobs that pay fair, living wages.  We recognize that these individuals are the least qualified and the least capable of entering a traditional re-entry work program. This is a special population with special needs and a unique opportunity.

The Continuum of Care Problem

The current response to homelessness is to house people temporarily in shelters and then move them into “transitional housing” where they are provided a case worker whose job it is to stabilize their condition, help them attain their independence, and return them to the regular housing and work market.

For those that make it that far, once they return to regular housing, the Federal Minimum Wage (currently at $7.25 per hour) and low level job skills will not afford them basic rental housing and so they are unable to ultimately “transition out.”  Not being able to transition out means they often stay long-term in transitional housing which creates a bottle-neck whereby transitional housing functionally becomes long-term housing and new clients can’t get in to access the services and stability they need.  Currently, several Austin transitional housing facilities are changing to permanent housing which takes those transitional housing units out of the system.  Compounding the problem; there has been tremendous resistance by neighborhoods to the creation and placement of any new transitional housing.

The math: People are not moving through the current transitional housing successfully + Transitional housing is changing to permanent housing + Neighborhood resistance to new transitional housing = A current shortfall of transitional housing that is only getting worse.

Austin has a Continuum of Care system that is incapable of serving the very purpose for which it was intended.

The Let’s Get to Work Initiative

The “Let’s Get to Work Initiative” is intended to solve these problems by moving people in transitional housing to permanent housing through job training, job placement, short term wage subsidies and by covering initial housing costs.  Moving people out of transitional housing then makes room for new people to enter transitional housing and move through the bottle-neck.

After assessing skill levels, applicants already in shelters and in transitional living situations are offered training as an opportunity to earn a work certificate in about 20 areas of employment (i.e. solar panel installer or phlebotomist, etc.).  In coordination with local employers and Program Managers, certificate earners and other system graduates are placed in jobs. Because the likely initial expected level of earning will be at, or just above the minimum wage level, a short-term wage subsidy will be provided.  This will raise their wage to a Living Wage. Program supports will continue up to 18 months or until full self-sufficiency/ economic stability is achieved.  Training + Jobs + Short Term Wage Subsidies > Self-Sufficiency

Community Sponsorships (Private & Faith Based Organizations)

The problem of homelessness requires that all community members become community partners. This involves community activists, businesses, and faith based organizations. Just as it is important for businesses to partner with us and employ folks with long work layoffs, we need members of our private organizations and faith-based communities to involve their members and congregations.  We envision this to be a long term investment to end homelessness for individuals.  We are seeking a personalized and individualized relationship between one Program Participant, the Program Manager and a Community Sponsoring Organization.  In this scenario, we see a relationship where all three entities share their stories, their hopes, their fears and their progress along the way.  For your community, it offers an opportunity to be part of offering hope and dignity to those stuck in the homeless cycle and who want out.

Community Sponsorship Costs

We estimate that the costs to sponsor one client per year is $3650, with the additional wage subsidy costs which could add $982 per month.  Higher paying jobs will reduce this amount.  Community Sponsorships will be matched to clients based on their sponsorship commitment.  Minimum annual expenses are estimated at $6596.  We are also happy to consider creative sponsorships and sponsorships that contribute to part of the program costs.  For example, your organization could offer to sponsor part of the program manager costs which would reduce the ongoing sponsorship costs for other sponsors.  Organizations could also join together to sponsor different portions of the costs, i.e. a business owner in your church could sponsor the fixed costs and the church could sponsor the clients wage subsidies and build the relationship.  If you want to help, we will make a way.

Program Benefits

  • Frees up  valuable transitional housing space for others (keeps the system flowing)
  • Ends economic homelessness for each success story
  • Creates a ready, willing, able and stable work force
  • Involves the business community of Austin in the solution of ending homelessness
  • Strategically connects the faith-based community with those in need in their community
  • Completes the City of Austin Continuum of Care process
  • Provides opportunity, a pathway, and hope, for people experiencing homelessness

Next Step: Schedule a Meeting to Discuss Your Organizations Participation

The next step is to schedule a meeting to discuss your organizations possible participation in the Let’s Get to Work Initiative.  In this meeting, we will lay out the need, the vision and the opportunity.  You will be equipped to present this to others in your organization and help them participate in giving hope and a new opportunity to others.  To schedule a meeting or to find out more information, please contact Jacob Vanhorn, Community Sponsorship Coordinator.

For you numbers people out there, here is an overview of the program budget:

The Budget for a 20 Person Model

Real Costs

  • LGTW Program Manager $35,000 annually
  • Administrative Costs: $5,000 annually
  • Living Wage Subsidy: $982 per month*
    • Represents the difference between Federal Minimum Wage and the Universal Living Wage adjusted for Austin, and could be for 3-18 months.
    • *Assuming the client gets a job at the the Federal Minimum Wage (FMW).  Client could get a higher paying job which would reduce this cost.
  • Transitional Housing Costs: $1800  (per person-one time cost of deposit, 1st and last month’s rent)
  • Misc.: One time cost per Individual: $200.00 (i.e. steel toed shoes, hard hat, etc.)
  • Education: $54 per credit hour. (i.e. $2000 to become Fire fighter)

In Kind Savings (Utilizing Existing Resources)

  • Housing: Clients will already be in existing transitional housing and moving through the system.
  • Case Management: Clients will use existing case managers at their transitional housing location.  (Let’s Get To Work will hire a LGTW Program Manager to manage the LGTW portion of the program.  This cost is shared across all 20 client sponsorships.)

Thanks for reading the Let’s Get to Work Initiative Summary.  Partnering together we can offer hope and new opportunities for others.


5 responses to “The Initiative

  1. Pingback: Check out The Let’s Get to Work Initiative! « Let's Get To Work!

  2. Pingback: Homeless Surveys Show Homeless Want to Work « Let's Get To Work!

  3. Pingback: Faith-Based Organizations Must Reinforce Our Safety Net « Let's Get To Work!

  4. Pingback: Let’s Get to Work at the ‘In the City, For the City’ Ministry Expo « Let's Get To Work!

  5. Pingback: Let’s Get to Work Initiative Receives City Support « Let's Get To Work!

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