Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Transcript- Episode 109: The Number One Reason People Are Facing Homelessness Episode 109

Dec 19, 2023


00:00:00 Anne

So, we need to focus on our young people. So, how are we going to do that? Again, it's by working together. It's bringing all of our expertise to the table. And this is not just for those experiencing homelessness, but it's good for our communities, our society.

00:00:15 Anne

It's good for our employers, it's a great opportunity for our educational institutions, and it certainly is good for social service agencies who struggle to help these people back on their feet. But we can and we do. We see lives transformed.

00:00:36 Christina

The workforce landscape is rapidly changing and educators and their institutions need to keep up. Preparing students before they enter the workforce to make our communities and businesses stronger is at the core of getting an education.

00:00:49 Christina

But we need to understand how to change and adjust so that we can begin to project where things are headed before we even get there. So, how do we begin to predict the future?

00:01:01 Salvatrice

Hi, I'm Salvatrice Cummo, Vice President of Economic and Workforce Development at Pasadena City College, and host of this podcast.

00:01:09 Christina

And I'm Christina Barsi, producer and co-host of this podcast.

00:01:13 Salvatrice

And we are starting the conversation about the future of work. We'll explore topics like how education can partner with industry, how to be more equitable, and how to attain one of our highest goals: more internships and PCC students in the workforce.

00:01:27 Salvatrice

We at Pasadena City College want to lead the charge in closing the gap between what our students are learning and what the demands of the workforce will be once they enter. This is a conversation that impacts all of us. You, the employers, the policymakers, the educational institutions, and the community as a whole.

00:01:47 Christina

We believe change happens when we work together, and it all starts with having a conversation. I'm Christina Barsi.

00:01:55 Salvatrice

And I'm Salvatrice Cummo, and this is the Future of Work.

00:01:58 Salvatrice

Hi, welcome back, this is Salvatrice Cummo, your host for the Future of Work Podcast. And in this episode today, I'm excited to share our closing keynote speaker from our 5th Annual Future of Work Conference. We missed capturing my introduction for our amazing speaker in the recording, therefore, I'd like to share a little about her background and who she is before we begin.

00:02:23 Salvatrice

Our closing keynote speaker for the 5th Annual Future of Work Conference was Anne Miskey, President and Chief Executive Officer of Union Station Homeless Services. With her extensive experience and expertise, Anne is widely recognized as a national expert in developing innovative and effective strategies to end homelessness.

00:02:46 Salvatrice

Anne is deeply committed to advocating for, and empowering the most vulnerable members of society, and she has a proven track record of creating long-term positive change and building strong support systems for those experiencing poverty, violence, racism, and homelessness.

00:03:10 Salvatrice

Prior to joining Union Station Homeless Services, Anne was the CEO of the Downtown Women's Center and the first ever Executive Director of Funders Together to End Homelessness. Throughout her career, Anne has worked closely with government agencies such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Labor to champion and support for vulnerable individuals and families in the areas of housing, health, and employment.

00:03:45 Salvatrice

In addition to her work at Union Station Homeless Services, Anne is a sought after speaker and community leader who fosters conversations about the systemic issues that drive homelessness and works to debunk myths about those experiencing homelessness.

00:04:03 Salvatrice

We are so thankful to have her as our closing keynote speaker to discuss her work and our chance to create a path for the most vulnerable, enjoy.

00:04:19 Salvatrice

We are very thankful to have you here today Anne, please let's give Anne a welcome.

00:04:30 Anne

Whenever I hear my bio, I go, "Oh, my gosh, can I live up to that? I'm not sure." It's such a pleasure to be here today. Homelessness is one of the major crises of our times. You can't go anywhere without seeing people living in tents or RVs or on the street, and I think it's in the news every single day.

00:04:50 Anne

Now, if you were to ask most people what is the cause of the homelessness we're seeing in Los Angeles? The majority of people would say, "Oh, it's mental illness and addiction." The fact of the matter, it is neither of those things.

00:05:08 Anne

It is true that those things may make you more vulnerable to experiencing homelessness, but they're more often symptoms of homelessness rather than causes. So, if it's not those things, what is it? What is the cause of the homelessness we see here in Los Angeles County, and sadly, growing throughout the western world?

00:05:31 Anne

Well, there is one reason and one reason only, and that is economic. People cannot afford to live in our society. They cannot afford housing. The cost of housing is the number one issue that people experience homelessness. To give you an example, here in California, to rent a one-bedroom apartment and a modest one-bedroom apartment, you need a salary of $70,000 a year or more.

00:06:05 Anne

If you are living on minimum wage, you need to work 88 hours a week to afford a one-bedroom. Now, this is a California average. If we look at here in Pasadena, a one-bedroom average is $3,200 a month.

00:06:21 Anne

Now, think if you're a family and you struggle by with a two-bedroom apartment, modest - you need to make over $90,000 a year or work 110 hours a week. And sadly, many of the people we know work just about that much to try to keep a roof over their heads.

00:06:44 Anne

So, what do we do about this crisis? Well, there are two things we can do. One, and we work really hard at this, is we try to create more affordable housing for people, but the need is so great, we can't keep up. And there's such huge backlash in communities: "No, no, no, no. We don't want those people (families, individuals, seniors, youth) living in our community." But we keep trying and we do as much as we can.

00:07:10 Anne

The other solution is increasing people's income. They make more money, they can afford to live. Exactly. So, again, how do we increase people's income? Well, you can decide that you're going to win the Powerball. Okay, that might work.

00:07:30 Anne

Maybe you have a rich uncle that you can knock off. You know, those are possible. But realistically, how do we increase people's income? It is through employment - decent livable wage, career path jobs are what people need just to afford the basics of life; food, clothing, housing.

00:07:58 Anne

By the way, has anybody gone to a grocery store recently and seen the cost of food? Sticker shock? This is putting so many families and individuals under pressure. We deal with people who have literally fallen into homelessness.

00:08:11 Anne

They estimate there are over 2 million people in California who are living on the edge, and often, it takes one thing for them to fall over. Their car breaks down and they have a choice. Do they pay for car repairs so they can drive to their job or do they pay rent? Do they lose their housing or do they lose their job? Those are the choices people have.

00:08:37 Anne

Now, I work in the homeless sector, and our focus has always been housing, getting people housed and providing the support they need to be stable. And we do a damn good job of it. Union Station, I'm going to brag a little, has one of the highest housing retention rates of any organization in the country.

00:09:04 Anne

97% of the people that we get housed do not become homeless again. But we know how to keep people housed, we know what it takes. What we do, we do outreach, we go out into encampments where people are, we build relationships, we get them supportive services, we get them into housing as quickly as we can, and we surround them with the support they need to stay housed.

00:09:25 Anne

But right now, we are seeing people fall into homelessness at rates we have never seen in this country ever and again, why? The cost of housing, the cost of living. And for many of those people, what they need is to get a job that pays the rent.

00:09:48 Anne

We struggled for a long time because our clients, our sector, often couldn't get the help and the support they needed to get back into the workforce. Our job centers, our employment centers weren't created to help this vulnerable population. They weren't funded for it, they weren't incentivized for it, they weren't rewarded for it.

00:10:10 Anne

Their purpose is to get as many people employed as possible, and you're dealing with a very vulnerable, often hard to serve population. So, what happened is the social service sector said, "Okay, nobody else is doing it, we're going to do it."

00:10:23 Anne

So, we started an employment program, and I'm not going to say it hasn't done good work. Our employees are so dedicated, but we focus on things like preparing your resume, doing mock interviews, making sure you have the clothing that you need for your interview. And then yes, we have some connections to employers. So, we do an okay job, but it is not enough.

00:10:49 Anne

And frankly, we don't have the expertise that we need to adequately serve this group of people. So, what is the solution? The solution is we need to work together. Our communities need to come together because more and more people are falling into economic hardship. And yet, we have employers and sectors who are desperately in need of employees.

00:11:18 Anne

We heard them just talking about some of the jobs that are there and there's no people filling those jobs. So, there is incredible opportunity. Opportunities for partnerships. It's a foundation of partnership and collaboration with a little tidbit of ingenuity, a dash of innovation, and wrapping that around with the philosophy that everybody deserves a good job.

00:11:51 Anne

But the reality is there are also barriers, and we have to be real about what those barriers are. I mentioned our employment centers, our job centers not being set up for this, but they have made changes. We work with a number of them. They are understanding that this is a need. So, how do we work more with those job centers to create pathways for people?

00:12:16 Anne

One of the biggest issues we faced frankly, is mindset. People feel that if you're homeless, really the kind of job ... will get you a food service job that pays minimum wage, that that's kind of all they deserve or all they can do. We have to change that mindset. We have to understand that people need opportunity, they need a pathway, a career pathway.

00:12:38 Anne

Then we have the barriers of the people themselves. If you've been homeless, you are experiencing extreme trauma on a daily basis. You are living in fight or flight mode, survival mode. And a lot of people experience PTSD, so they need support.

00:12:59 Anne

We work with landlords when we're trying to get people housed. We work with our clients to wrap them around with supportive services to help get them back on the pathway. Eventually, they don't need it, but at the beginning they may. The barriers that are out there for these people.

00:13:18 Anne

Then there are things that's not just our clients, but things like transportation, childcare, which are huge barriers. The majority of our families who fall into homelessness are single-parent families, especially women with young children. Childcare is a huge, huge barrier.

00:13:35 Anne

And then one of the things that I think we're in the right place to talk about is education and training. The homeless population in general has lower levels of education than the general population. Often, it is because they come from families of poverty, intergenerational poverty.

00:13:53 Anne

Racism is a huge issue with our population, is one of the major causes that we see. Lack of opportunity and also people can't afford. If you're a person living in poverty, unless you get a scholarship, you can't afford to go back. And if you're providing for a family to take time and go to a four-year or even a two-year college program can be impossible.

00:14:17 Anne

So, these are all barriers that we deal with and that we as a society have to look at, and deal with. And how do we come together to create models that create success for people that lift people up? Well, here are some things that I think we can do.

00:14:34 Anne

One of the first things we can do, and I'm looking at myself and the social service sector, but also ask help from those who are working more on the economic development side, is how do we connect with employers who need people to work at jobs that, again, pay livable wages in our career path job? Let us learn kind of where we can send people. We don't want people just to work at a fast food place.

00:15:01 Anne

So, we need to make connections with employers and meet their needs so they can meet the needs of the people we work with. Then create pathways for education and training. Things that connect people to jobs but that are fast track, that don't require two years for them, but may require six months.

00:15:23 Anne

And during that time, we as an agency can help support them financially, get them through their training, get them into jobs, give them some time to get established and then wish them all the best in the world. We need to work with colleges, and I will say PCC (and they didn't pay me to say this) is a wonderful, wonderful partner.

00:15:50 Anne

I will say that PCC is a jewel in the crown of not just this community, but of this country. And I am so proud to be here today with you.

00:16:05 Anne

One of the things we often forget as we're getting folks employed is I mentioned that we work with landlords when we get people housed. We work directly with the landlords and we say, "Here is our phone number, and the moment you have trouble with your tenant, you call us and we are there." "Joe didn't pay his rent, Joe's being noisy," they will call us up and we will fix the problem. That is another reason we have almost a hundred percent retention rate.

00:16:30 Anne

Landlords tell us, "We wish we had you with all of our tenants." We need to do the same for employers. We need to support employers. If they're willing to hire our clients, we want to say, "We're going to be there for you. We're going to be there to help you and assist you and make sure that this works for you."

00:16:48 Anne

Let me give you an actual example. We had a lady who had fled domestic violence, and she got housed and got a really good job at a manufacturing company. It was a union job, so she had good wages, good benefits. But all of a sudden, she started to implode. Things weren't going well.

00:17:11 Anne

So, the employer called, had a relationship with her case manager and said, "I'm really worried about her. We want to keep her, but she's not doing well." So, the case manager came and sat down with her to find out what was wrong.

00:17:25 Anne

And what it was, was her partner used to torment her by jumping out at her and attacking her. He would hide and literally jump out and physically assault her. And it turned out the job she had was working on a big heavy machine. She had to wear earplugs and if people would walk up behind her, she would lose it. Again, PTSD, it was triggering for her.

00:17:55 Anne

So, you know what the solution was? They gave her a mirror in front of her so she could see people, a simple solution. And then she was successful and continued on in her career, but that was working together with the employer to solve a problem. That's what we need to do. We need to provide support to our employers.

00:18:17 Anne

We also have to recognize that we need to wrap around the people, we need to support them, we need to bring their families. We need to bring the community in together because it is those connections, those mutual supports that make a difference. And again, we have to insist that the people we work with deserve a career path job.

00:18:40 Anne

I worked with an agency in Boston. They looked at what industries needed jobs in, and it was like the healthcare industry, hospitality and IT. And they went to meet with the hospital to start this program, and the hospital said, "Yeah, we have some jobs in our laundry and in housekeeping," and not that those are bad. I don't want to downplay, people do legitimate work, but it wasn't a career path job.

00:19:02 Anne

And the person in the program said, "No, I'm sorry. We want our people to get in jobs, yes, at the ground floor, but they can have a projection, they can move forward in their career. We're not accepting just any odd job for people. They deserve a career." And that made all the difference in the world.

00:19:18 Anne

So, who are some of the people we're talking about when I'm talking about our clients, people experiencing homelessness? They're are those that are never going to be able to get full-time jobs, career path jobs because they have a lot of personal barriers: health issues, et cetera. But there's a huge population out there that needs good jobs.

00:19:39 Anne

Somebody earlier talked about our seniors. You may not be aware of this, but the fastest growing population in the homeless population are seniors. People who have worked their whole lives or been homemakers, retire on a fixed income, and at the age of 65, 70, 75 are living in their cars or on the streets. So, we do need to have some kind of career opportunities for our older workers.

00:20:05 Anne

The others - families. I mentioned young families with young children. More than anything, they need a good job so that they can support themselves and their families.

00:20:15 Anne

We have a client who we got into housing, he was able to go back to college and then has a job. And he said to me what it meant to him. He said, "I grew up with a single mom living in poverty. I do not want that for my children. I want to stop the cycle with me." And it was having a job and being able to support his family that made the difference.

00:20:36 Anne

And finally, the other group, and we heard some things here today about students. Our youth, 40% of foster care youth will become homeless by the time they're 26 - sorry, 45%. 40% of them that are in college are struggling with housing insecurity.

00:20:54 Anne

The figure I've heard nationally is about 30% of college students are either homeless or on the verge of homelessness. And yet we know the best path forward for them is good employment and good opportunity. We need to work with our young people. I talk with someone from the youth organization here that works with a lot of homeless youth. They said that is their number one issue.

00:21:19 Anne

There was a program when I was living in Toronto in Canada where they provided housing for youth. They actually used a big warehouse and they built townhouses in the warehouse that these kids would live in. And right on site, they had apprenticeship programs for these kids to learn trades. And these kids were finishing the program at 18 and 20 and coming out with jobs that paid $80,000 a year. So, we need to focus on our young people.

00:21:47 Anne

So, how are we going to do that? Again, it's by working together. It's bringing all of our expertise to the table. And this is not just for those experiencing homelessness, but it's good for our communities, our society. It's good for our employers, it's a great opportunity for our educational institutions, and it certainly is good for social service agencies who struggle to help these people back on their feet.

00:22:12 Anne

But we can and we do. We see lives transformed. And I just want to end with a story, a true story. Raphael had been homeless for a number of years. A young man, intergenerational poverty, a lot of issues. We got him housed with time-limited subsidies, so the money would only last for a short time, and he needed to then increase his income and he really, really struggled.

00:22:40 Anne

And he was about to lose his housing for another time, and the housing he had was far away from his family and he felt isolated. So, he came to us and we said, "Let's see what we can do."

00:22:53 Anne

Well, we created and formed a partnership with Metro, and they've hired him to be an ambassador working with other people on the trains experiencing homelessness as a resource, also helping riders if there are people on the train.

00:23:09 Anne

And really, he rides the rails but in a different way, he gets paid for it. And again, it's a Metro job with great pay, great benefits, and a career path in front of him. I have a picture of Raphael on my phone with a huge smile on his face. He is so proud to put his uniform on and go to work every day.

00:23:33 Anne

His life has been changed, yes, because of housing, but now he has a path ahead and a bright future. Another client of mine who got housing and got a job, I asked her, what did this mean to her? And she said, "For the first time in years, I have hope." And then she put up her arms and she said, "I can dream again." That's what we want for everybody in our community. Thank you.

00:24:12 Salvatrice

Thank you for listening to The Future of Work Podcast. Make sure you're subscribed on your favorite listening platform so you can easily get new episodes every Tuesday.

00:24:20 Salvatrice

You can reach out to us by clicking on the website link below in the show notes to collaborate, partner, or just chat about all things future of work. We'd love to connect with you. All of us here at the Future of Work and Pasadena City College wish you safety and wellness.