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Finding Employment Services for People Experiencing Homelessness

Many employment services are federal programs that are available in most cities and some rural areas. Other services are only available locally. The following is a general set of guidelines to learn about available employment services in your area. Employment services are often designated for specific eligibility groups. Follow up with local contacts to confirm what services they provide and who is eligible.

Finding Employment Services for...

People with a Disability

People who have, or think they may have a disability, can contact their local Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) office. VR can pay for an assessment of disability and, if the person meets eligibility criteria, provide some vocational services and supports, such as uniforms, training, and transportation. VR can also refer to specific providers of supported employment and other vocational services in your area. If the closest VR office is in another city, VR may provide outreach to your area.

People who are Veterans

Veterans can contact the Veterans Administration Healthcare System (VA). All VA hospitals and some outpatient clinics now provide IPS (Individual Placement Support) supported employment.

People with a Serious Mental Illness

People with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression, can contact their local community mental health or behavioral health agency. In many states, these agencies also provide IPS supported employment. To find agencies in your area, use the Find a Provider feature or visit your state’s Department of Mental Health website.

People with an Intellectual or Developmental Disability

Those with an intellectual or developmental disability (IDD) can contact their local IDD agency. These agencies may provide some form of customized employment or supported employment. Contact the Federal Developmental Disabilities Administration. Local service agencies have different names and are often combined with other providers.  Your state agency oversees these local programs and can give you specific contacts in your area.

People who receive Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF)

Current recipients of TANF can contact their local TANF office. They often provide some form of vocational assistance. Vocational services will vary from area to area, and they often refer people to local VR offices.

People in the Homeless Assistance Program

The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Homeless Assistance Program (HAP) for chronic homelessness may provide vocational services.

People in Other Categorical Programs

If the person fits some other categorical program, such as Job Corps for low income young people, Ticket to Work for adults in Social Security Disability programs, American Indian Vocational Rehabilitation Services for Native Americans, State Agencies for the Blind for people with visual impairments or blindness, and Senior Community Services Employment Program for people 55 and over, as part of the title 5 program, contact that program. 

People who are not Eligible for a Categorical Program

If the person does not meet criteria for any of the above, contact the local One-Stop program, or American Job Center, run by the Department of Labor. In addition to helping the general public with employment, they may have funding for at-risk populations.

Local Programs for People who are Homeless

Contact the local homelessness coalition to find other programs that may be locally available, such as Goodwill, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, and services from other religious or poverty organizations that may offer employment services. 
All of the above programs will have websites that explain what services they provide, who is eligible, and how to contact them (see links above).  A good place to begin is with federal programs for people experiencing homelessness.