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Nonfiction in response to Decent Work and Economic Growth
August 2018

Homeless People and Decent Work: A Vicious Cycle

By Karen Wu
4. Karen's photo.jpg

“Why don’t they just get a job?” is one of the main questions circling around the homeless. After all, if they got a job, they could improve their lives. So why don’t they have one? Some may assume the homeless are simply lazy, but that’s far from the truth. Another simple answer is that there just aren’t enough jobs. This isn’t untrue- between 2016 and 2030, about 470 million jobs, or around 30 million per year, are needed worldwide.3 However, the homeless face other barriers that prevent them from getting a job. Not only is there job discrimination, but they also lack the resources to easily hold down a job.


Employers often discriminate against the homeless. Some bar homeless people with bad credit or criminal history from employment. Simply living at a homeless shelter can cause employers to discriminate against people. Jeff Johnson, a homeless former military member, got rejected from many entry-level job positions. He told the LA Times his reasoning for why they rejected him was that "if employers saw the address of a [homeless] shelter, they would say I am on drugs or have a mental illness. A lot of people look down at people like myself." On the same article, Glynn Coleman, an employment specialist at the Union Rescue Mission in LA, said “once employers find out that a job applicant lives in a homeless shelter, so many have told me that they can't hire them.”


Even without job discrimination, there are still major issues. Some homeless people may have young children but lack access to childcare. Therefore, even if they were to get a job, they might not take it because of needing to care for their child. Lack of transportation is also an issue. Factoring in other basic needs, homeless people might not be able to afford transportation, making physically getting to a job or even just a job interview a big hurdle. Another issue faced by homeless people is the lack of access to technology, which can generate problems. For example, many people communicate via email. If they lack access to email, then homeless people lose a major line of communication with their employers. says that another issue is “low educational attainment levels.”

With all these barriers, homeless people are often unable to get a job. The thing is, virtually all of these barriers could be helped by them having a job and not being homeless. So, in order to get a job that could potentially generate a solution to the problems of unemployment and homelessness, the homeless must first come up with a solution to these problems without a job- a vicious cycle.



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