Workforce Development


  • Gateway Center, Georgia

Focus Area

  • Self-Sufficiency

“It's really hard to get a job, go to an interview, have your phone charged, or even do laundry if you're living on the street or living in a car or living from house to house. So Gateway Center provides that first, short-term residential program for our guests to get back on their feet.”

Amanda Van Dalen, Director of Residential Services, Gateway Center

The Issue

For many, unemployment means a dwindling bank account and an inability to pay bills. As those bills stack up, options run out–including those for housing. Unemployment is one of the top-cited reasons for homelessness across the country. 

Homelessness, in turn, has a trickle-down effect on a host of factors, including mental health and addiction problems, that can become barriers to finding and keeping a job. Without stable housing, those experiencing homelessness face a drastically more difficult job search. 

It’s a dangerous cycle to be caught in. Unemployment rates among those experiencing homelessness are substantially higher than the national average, with recent research on homelessness reporting 70-80% of surveyed individuals as unemployed.

The interplay between homelessness and unemployment is well-documented. They are both the causes and effects of each other. Each barrier builds on the other, and things can quickly get out of control. Homelessness and unemployment are so inseparable from one another that to fix one struggle often requires being able to tackle both at once.

Increasingly, homelessness service providers have embraced a continuum of care model that meets a client’s immediate shelter needs while also delivering programming to help address other obstacles so they can find gainful employment. Integrating the approaches like this has the potential to address the persistent unemployment that contributes to homelessness while also ending the homelessness that increases a person’s chances of being unemployed.

The Intervention

The Gateway Center’s (GWC) residential shelter for men in Atlanta is doing just that. The shelter improves housing and job stability by pairing its housing program with workforce development training and career support. 

First, the residential shelter takes housing insecurity out of the equation for its clients. At the same time, it also offers them a number of other services, including a 12-week job-specific workforce development program. Program participants select a job track in maintenance, customer service, custodial work, or food service and attend seven hours of training four days a week. They then receive job placement assistance with one of GWC’s community partners. All program participants also receive basic job preparation support, such as resume writing, and residential care and case management.  

For the Gateway Center, fighting homelessness is not a one-step solution. It requires a willingness to accompany and support people on their journey as they face a variety of struggles. Participants set and work towards goals related to family and community engagement, housing placement and stability, job skills training and placement, health and wellness, and financial literacy.

The Gateway Center’s program aims to improve people’s lives long-term by giving them the tools they need to solve issues now that otherwise could cause them to fall back into homelessness in the future if left unaddressed. Overcoming all of the barriers they face in a holistic way is key to helping people change their futures. 

Research Question

What is the impact of a job-specific workforce development program with job matching on employment, earnings, and housing stability?

Intended Outcomes

  • Participants in this program will have increased earnings, employment, and housing stability one and two years after completion. 
  • They will also have higher credit scores and lower arrest rates after completing the program.

Research Study Design

LEO researchers will use a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to evaluate the Gateway Center’s workforce development program. GWC accepts workforce development program enrollees from among its residential care program. Participants must be interested in and able to work full time, cannot receive a disability check, and cannot have been previously randomized. GWC expects to have 400 eligible residents annually, but only has the capacity to serve 125 with this program. 

Since there are more eligible clients living at the residential center than GWC has the capacity to train through the workforce development program, it uses a lottery-based system to randomly assign eligible residents to the treatment and control groups. The treatment group participates in the intensive 12-week program, while the control group receives only residential care and basic job assistance, such as resume writing.

Researchers will use baseline data from GWC’s administrative data, including demographic information and identifiers needed to connect to outcome data. They hope to access unemployment insurance records from the state of Georgia to track earnings and employment data and will use HMIS (Homelessness Management Information System) and Infutor address history to track housing data. To track secondary outcomes, they will rely on Experian for credit score data and Georgia public records for arrest data.

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