‘Employment-First’ Program in Harris County Offers Work and Supportive Services

The Employ2Empower program pays participants $15 an hour to work on county projects and engage with service providers while they await housing.

2 minute read

November 4, 2022, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Houston

holbox / Shutterstock

As R.A. Schuetz reports in the Houston Chronicle, a Harris County program connects unhoused people with work and services, paying $15 an hour to participants for labor on county properties as well as for time spent accessing resources and counseling.

The Employ2Empower program fills a gap in the city’s efforts to end homelessness, which have successfully focused on a Housing First approach but have not effectively secured housing for all unhoused residents. “And a large portion of people on the waiting list for housing fall off because they miss appointments or are hard for housing navigators to contact for follow ups.” County Commissioner Adrian Garcia, whose office collaborated on the program, says Employ2Empower provides a complementary, “employment-first” model.

“Employ2Empower is meant to go hand-in-hand with the current system for navigating housing and other resources for those without homes, but it sets itself apart from those services in the way it engages with workers. The program's unique incentive of hourly wages gets people in need of housing to interact regularly with support staff, making it easier to connect them with resources and follow up about housing applications.”

The article notes that the program also saves the county money on public works projects, reducing the need for outside contractors. County commissioners have approved a $2.1 million expansion of the program, but its future depends on ensuring sustainable funding sources and securing enough appropriate partner employers.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022 in Houston Chronicle

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