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Access to Workforce Services


Ensure that the workforce services system is designed to more effectively and efficiently serve people experiencing homelessness.

U.S. RepresentativesRequest leadership of the House Committee on Education and Labor to make amendments to the Workforce Investment Act reauthorization bill to better assist people experiencing homelessness.

U.S. Senators Request leadership of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions to make amendments to the Workforce Investment Act reauthorization bill to better assist people experiencing homelessness.


The Bring America Home Act (BAHA), a legislative initiative of the National Coalition for the Homeless introduced in the 108th and 109th Congresses, contained a number of proposals to improve the economic security of people experiencing homelessness. Among them was a proposal to establish a 'Homebuild' Program to assist homeless people who have experienced significant barriers to employment through training and apprenticeship programs and a proposal to establish apprenticeships in skilled trades for homeless people. BAHA also contained a number of recommendations for reauthorizing Workforce Investment Act programs in a manner that removes homeless persons’ barriers to accessing WIA services. As Congress considers WIA reauthorization legislation in this session, the following provisions should be included:

  • Dramatically increase the funding for the workforce development and training system.
  • Require WIA service providers to take into consideration, and report on, the housing status of job seekers, so that those who are homeless, have recently received homeless prevention and rapid re-housing assistance, or are living in housing targeting formerly homeless households may be appropriately served.
  • Require states to address employment services for homeless individuals and families in their WIA-required state workforce investment plan, including coordination with HUD’s local homeless Continuums of Care.
  • Allow states under WIA to use alternative criteria for measuring the employment outcomes of homeless people.
  • Incentivize the use of proven, effective practices responsive to the needs of special-needs populations and employers, including partnerships with affordable housing and rent-subsidy programs.
  • Target and prioritize intensive and training services for low-income and low-skill individuals, especially people who are homeless or regaining housing stability.
  • Include long-term homelessness when considering individual eligibility for WIA resources.
  • For the federal-state vocational rehabilitation program, allow people with disabilities who are chronically homeless to be considered individuals with the most severe disability in those states operating under an “order of selection” for services.
  • Permit and encourage affordable housing and service providers to offer job retention services under WIA to people who have recently obtained housing after a history of homelessness.
  • Fund targeted grants for cross-systems planning and innovative services to increase workforce participation and retention by people who are homeless or have recently received homelessness prevention or housing assistance.


  • While almost half (44%) of homeless people work at least part time, their monthly income averages only $367, compared to a median monthly income of $2,840 for U.S. households.
  • Many people in extreme poverty unable to work due to health conditions or other factors. For those that are able to work, impediments include lack of assistance in finding jobs, shortage of jobs that pay well enough to afford housing and other life necessities, and lack of skills necessary for available jobs.
  • The workforce services system is not funded adequately, despite the promise in 1998 that it would serve all American job seekers through access to basic job search services and occupational skills training. From 2002 to 2008, funding for the WIA Adult program shrank by 10.2 percent.
  • Stringent targets and performance measurements set by state workforce agencies and the U.S. Department of Labor discourage WIA-funded providers from serving job seekers with multiple barriers to employment, often including people experiencing homelessness.
  • Certain provisions of WIA hinder the ability of the homeless population to receive appropriate job training services from WIA-funded service providers. Absent specific training and technical assistance, the network of “qualified providers” is unlikely to include enough providers with expertise in meeting the needs of hard-to-serve populations.


The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998 was enacted to replace the Job Training Partnership Act and the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act with a new workforce services system. WIA services—including job search and placement assistance, labor market information, employment counseling, and occupational and basic skills training—are provided primarily through One-Stop Career Centers. The Adult Program, under Title I of WIA, is designed to provide quality employment and training services to assist eligible individuals in finding and qualifying for meaningful employment.

Unfortunately, the transition to WIA has not benefited job seekers with multiple, significant barriers to employment. Homeless workers’ limited skills and education levels usually consign them to, at best, temporary employment at very low wages. In the service of creating more permanent housing, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) decreased its funding of employment assistance through local homeless Continuums of Care. At the same time, the workforce system decreased its funding of training and intensive services for hard-to-serve populations in order to better serve those who would most likely get employment with the least amount of assistance.

The Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP), administered by the Department of Labor’s Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS), has proven successful in helping job seekers in finding meaningful employment, but unfortunately its services are restricted to homeless veterans rather than the entire homeless population.

For further information on the public policy recommendations of the National Coalition for the Homeless, contact the NCH public policy staff at info@nationalhomeless.org or 202.462.4822, or visit www.nationalhomeless.org.

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