Connecting state and local government leaders

City’s Homeless Job-Training Program Provides Model to ‘Set People Up for Success’

Riverside, California

Riverside, California Shutterstock


Connecting state and local government leaders

“Give them a sense of pride in what they do and it engenders commitment,” said Stephanie Holloman, the human resources director in Riverside, California.

BALTIMORE — For communities struggling with homelessness, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. But there are various strategies and models that have had success in one jurisdiction that others can look to see what can be adapted for their locality.  

Riverside, California has gained attention for being the only city in the Golden State to end veterans homelessness. While the city’s housing-first approach has played a big role in helping to get unsheltered individuals into more stable environments, a job-training program that leads to positions with the city has helped some local homeless residents go from surviving on the streets to self sufficiency.

“It’s not the answer, it’s one of the answers,” Stephanie Holloman, the city’s human resources director, said during a packed session at the International City / County Management Association’s annual conference in Baltimore last week. It’s “an opportunity for them to live viable lives.”

Participants in the Riverside at Work program receive 12 months of rental assistance and placement in a suitable part-time position with the city where they get on-the-job training along with ongoing skills training.

The program, which launched in July 2017, isn’t an open door to any unsheltered individual seeking a job, Holloman said. The city and its partners are looking to train and “employ clients committed to their success.”

In Riverside County, which includes the city of Riverside, the 2017 point-in-time homeless count included a new question seeking for information about the reasons why an unsheltered individual ended up homeless. Thirty-three percent of respondents said that unemployment was the primary reason they ended up homeless. Twenty-seven percent said that insufficient income for housing was the reason.

“We’re not just trying to bring you in as a custodian if you used to work in the banking industry,” Holloman said. “You put them in a position … that gives them “a sense of pride in what they do and it engenders commitment.”

The city has lined up local private businesses that will guarantee any Riverside at Work graduate a job interview.

After working with an initial group of four individuals who participated and graduated, there are now seven new participants currently with the program thanks to a partnership with Goodwill, according to the city.

Participants in the Riverside at Work program placed into part-time positions with the city aren’t required to disclose to their co-workers that they’re part of the program or their history being homeless, it’s up to them if they share that information with their colleagues, Holloman said.

The program is funded by Altura Credit Union, a Community Development Block Grant and a Cooperative Personnel Services HR Consulting grant.

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

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