Program to Serve Homeless Continues into 2024

December 20, 2023

WorkForce Central, through the WorkSource Pierce network, will continue helping people experiencing homelessness in Pierce County with job readiness training into 2024.

“The Stabilization Training and Employment Program, or STEP, which was initially slated to end this month, is being extended into the new year,” said Kari Haugen, Director of Workforce Partnerships with WorkForce Central.

STEP combines services provided by our housing system partners with workforce development services. There are 19 people currently enrolled in the program, with two already having successfully completed. A majority of the participants come in partnership with the Fife Jobs Program.

STEP participants interacting with each other during meeting in center.

Participants in the Fife Jobs Program are provided with a home in the city’s tiny house village, a group of 10 units sited next to the Fife Criminal Justice Center. This approach provides participants with the security and stability they need to begin job training and to tackle any other barriers—including addictions—that impede their ability to work.

“We have to recognize it takes a lot to get someone who’s in a tent out of that tent and into a stable situation,” said Norman Brickhouse, program manager for the Fife Jobs Program. “We’re giving them the necessary tools to get them out of these situations.”

While STEP had an initial goal of serving 40 people by the end of the year, program coordinators are finding they need more time to ensure people have what they need to make a sustainable transition. There are many challenges people face to ensure they have their basic needs met while also pursuing employment.

“Many of the people being enrolled don’t have identification or social security cards,” Brickhouse said. “It’s taking time to even work through the enrollment process. And once they are enrolled, there are often additional challenges such as addiction and/or mental health issues.”

The Fife Jobs Program supports its participants in all aspects of their journey.

“That’s what is unique about our program,” Brickhouse said. “We support people’s individual needs as they come.”

And when the opportunity to bring comprehensive workforce development services into the program through STEP arose, it was a no-brainer for Brickhouse.

“The whole goal is getting them into liveable wage jobs,” he said.

Through STEP, participants complete 16 hours of coursework spread out over eight modules. These classes help them with personal development, goal setting, budgeting, preparing for job searches, resume and interview assistance, and other activities.

After the modules are complete, each person also works on an employment portfolio and is connected to a Work Experience internship, which averages 120 hours and is generally completed in 3-4 weeks. WorkForce Central’s Business Solutions team is working with employers to find the best Work Experience opportunities for these job seekers, ones that will be appropriate and accommodating to the challenges that come with experiencing homelessness.

Along with each accomplishment in the program, participants are rewarded with a stipend to further support them through the program and as an incentive to keep going. The stipends are funded through STEP and then leveraged with federal dollars through WorkSource Pierce to provide further wraparound support services and to pay wages for their Work Experience internship.

Once they have completed their internship, participants are further supported by WorkSource Pierce in finding permanent employment. However, if they are struggling to meet the program goals, they are still enrolled in WorkSource programs and have additional support services and programs available with the assistance of their career advisors.

“It’s really empowering,” Brickhouse said. “They’re doing the homework and talking about the program. It’s been really impactful.”

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