BRC Horizons workforce development program helps residents of BRC’s shelters overcome obstacles to employment so they can be effective job seekers and valued employees, enabling them to find and maintain lasting self-sufficiency and stability through employment. Through group workshops, individual counseling and ongoing job retention support, Horizons instills homeless men and women with the tools to find and keep a job today and in the future. Clients are coached to be self-confident, directed and motivated job seekers, with the knowledge and skills to find and maintain employment independently. Participants graduate from the program with the confidence that their accomplishments are their own and that their newly acquired skills will enable them to navigate the challenges of employment long after they graduate the program. This approach ensures that participants not only exit the shelter system, but maintain housing independence and economic self-sufficiency in the long-term.
In the more than 20 years that Horizons has been in operation, the program has helped thousands of men and women move from unemployment and homelessness to independence and self-sufficiency.
In fiscal year 2016, Horizons’ person-centered services assisted 233 individuals in finding jobs, with an average hourly wage of $11.76, nearly 20% above New York’s recently increased minimum wage. These accomplishments are particularly impressive given the significant obstacles our clients face on their path to employment and self-sufficiency, not the least of which is their homelessness. Nearly three-quarters of these individuals also face one or more challenges relating to a limited education, history of criminal justice involvement, mental health and/or substance abuse disorders, or chronic medical conditions. Our unique, person-centered approach to workforce development utilized is specifically designed to help clients overcome these obstacles to find and maintain lasting self-sufficiency by means of employment.
While Horizons recognizes the importance of obtaining a job, the key measure of the program’s success, and that of our clients, is the ability for individuals to remain in the workforce, building toward lasting self-sufficiency. BRC knows that having work is better than not having work, and encourages our clients to take the job that they can get as a way of building to the job that they might ideally want. In line with this strategy, many of our retention efforts are focused on helping clients take the next step in their employment.
Horizons’ comprehensive retention programming consistently helps our clients achieve long-term independence and self-sufficiency by means of employment. Of the 257 clients who obtained employment in fiscal year 2015 and were working toward retention in fiscal year 2016, 82% retained continuous employment for 3 months after placement, 65% maintained employment at the 6 month milestone and 49% retained continuous employment for one year. Horizons’ performance outpaces retention outcomes of similar workforce development programs throughout the country. Data from the Benchmarking Project, a multi-year, nationwide workforce development initiative supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, demonstrates that Horizons’ outcomes are well above the average three, six and twelve-month retention rates (75%, 55% and 34% respectively) of other workforce development programs that primarily serve homeless individuals.
These achievements are all the more remarkable considering the significant needs of the clients we serve – many of whom come to the program with little or no work history – and demonstrate the effectiveness of our staff in coaching clients beyond maintenance and survival and toward material advancement and independence.