Why Don’t Homeless People Just Get A Job?

A more recent post takes a deeper dive into the issues addressed here. Please take a look at this and let me know what you think.

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.

11 Responses to Why Don’t Homeless People Just Get A Job?

  1. johnlunt says:

    Let’s not forget having ID and social security card which can be difficult -things get stolen on the streets.

    No permanent address or phone number in many cases.

    That doesn’t include the low self esteem and minimal confidence in themselves.

    My list is here: http://www.squidoo.com/lovethehomeless

  2. kathrynbaer says:

    Thanks for sharing your list, John. It’s a good, swift overview of the barriers.

  3. recently homeless says:

    homeless people can’t have a p.o. box anymore without proving a home address, thanks to the 9/11 terrorists.

    some homeless people have 2 jobs but it takes time to save up first and last months rent and some renters stereotype homeless people.

    some homeless work but can’t pay their bills and their rent.

    some homeless people who work and live in boxes spend the day worrying about whether their box will be gone by the time they get back to it.

    yes, some people, very few want to be homeless.

    but I don’t

    and neither does my daughter.



  5. […] some interesting stats — among them, my most-viewed posts. I note, with interest, that an old post makes the top-viewed list almost every […]

  6. […] some interesting stats — among them, my most-viewed posts. I note, with interest, that an old post makes the top-viewed list almost every […]

  7. I agree wholeheartedly. The problem is much deeper than it seems and people need to undrestand that. They need affordable housing as well as new job skills.

  8. […] after returning to the community, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. They face additional obstacles to employment, e.g., no fixed address, no way perhaps to take a daily shower, limited, if any […]

  9. […] mind that I haven’t yet focused on. But they’re relatively abstract, while the reasons homeless people don’t work or do work and remain homeless are ultimately unique, notwithstanding the broad-brush treatment in […]

  10. […] “Why Don’t Homeless People Just Get a Job?” cites some obstacles to employment homeless people face because they’re homeless, e.g., difficulties keeping clothes (and self) clean, conflicts between work schedules and shelter access hours. […]

  11. […] answers. During my quest for answers I came across Kathryn Baer blog and read about some of the obstacles these people face trying to find a […]

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