Focus job training on the homeless
Hawaii’s unemployment rate now hovers around the stunningly low ebb of 2 percent, a data point that can’t be read as anything but an improvement over the joblessness that soared a decade earlier.
Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser!
You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription.
Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story.
Hawaii’s unemployment rate now hovers around the stunningly low ebb of
2 percent, a data point that can’t be read as anything but an improvement over the joblessness that soared a decade earlier.
Still, such good numbers conceal a reality that is borne out in the state’s persistent homeless population: Many have been out of work for a long time and need help to reach the point of being employable again.
Fortunately, some have been getting that help, in one form or another, and are proving that they can reclaim their lives and self-reliance. This is a laborious and gradual process, but job training must become a larger element in Hawaii’s strategy to combat homelessness.
The latest testimonial comes from people such as Stephanie Burge, unemployed for six years and living in an encampment formed by homeless individuals and families near Kakaako Waterfront Park. She related her experience to Honolulu Star-Advertiser writer Dan Nakaso in a story published Saturday.
The 32-year-old Honolulu woman completed a training program offered at the Next Step Shelter and now works as a server at Big City Diner in Kaimuki. She was among
14 shelter residents who completed the five-week program of job preparation sessions with professional consultant Pam Chambers. All but three of the trainees already have secured jobs.
Chambers is an expert in personal presentation, whether for public speaking, job interviews or other goals. Advice on this front is crucial for those who need a clearer sense of an employer’s expectations from an applicant.
So the shelter, which is run by the nonprofit agency Waikiki Health, is seeking a $12,000 grant to offer four additional classes each year. That seems a worthy aim.
Now is a prime opportunity to capitalize on job-preparation resources with an eye to helping the homeless. Employers with entry-
level jobs are finding it difficult to fill openings with people who already have recent work experience.
According to the most current jobs data from the U.S. Census Bureau (the first quarter of 2016),
52 percent of all hires in Hawaii come from workers who were previously not employed. The chart shows that the percentage of those hired away from another job is increasing — a good sign, meaning that some of these workers are getting better wage offers and are moving up. But this also means employers at the low end of the salary scale are open to those who may be lacking in skills. Larger companies able to conduct in-house training are motivated to do so, to bring the jobless up to speed.
Most Hawaii employers, however, are small businesses that cannot manage their own intensive training, so entering a cooperative venture with Next Step or any of the other shelter programs would be a smart move.
There are various ways of attaining similar outcomes. Kahauiki Village, the transitional housing community for the formerly homeless established off Nimitz Highway with pre-fab units, also involved a partnership with a nearby employer, United Laundry Services. Residents became eligible for jobs at the laundry company.
All of these programs show the benefit of efforts to deter people from life on the streets, where statistics show their rapid deterioration, physically, mentally and socially. It’s essential to keep encouraging the homeless to take shelter — whether in an emergency facility such as Next Step or the Institute for Human Services, or in a transitional setting.
That brings them closer to services that can put them on a path to self-sufficiency. And key to that is employment.
Even if progress seems painfully slow, given the fact that many resist social services, reclaiming each human life is worth celebrating. Those like Stephanie Burge can pull themselves up, with courage, hard work and a helping hand.