Blogger Steve Samra has just posted an eye-opening account of the obstacles homeless people face in trying to get and keep a job. Steve is formerly homeless himself and now works with homeless people in Nashville. So he knows whereof he speaks.
What struck me was how obvious most of the obstacles are–or would be if we stopped to think through the job-seeking process and the basic requirements of just about any job.
- How can you find a job when you can’t afford bus fare to look around or a regular telephone connection?
- How can you get hired (and not swiftly fired) when you can’t keep your clothes clean and pressed or take a daily shower?
- How can you eat and have a roof over your head when you have to work during the hours that free meals are served and shelters open and not yet full?
And then there are obstacles that also contribute to homelessness–limited education and job skills, mental health and/or substance abuse problems, a criminal record, a poor or non-existent credit rating.
And, as if all this weren’t enough, how can you become formerly homeless when what you earn falls so far short of what it costs to rent a place to live?
Steve drives home an important point: It’s simplistic to think that homeless people just need to get a job a pull themselves up by their bootstraps.
But his posting raises much larger questions about what we can do to address the obstacles–and to keep people from having to face them to begin with. Do we just need the will to make the investments or do we also need better answers than we’ve got.