Barriers to Job Hunting

Kell is 20-years-old and living at Avenues. He’s happy to have a mailing address and a washer and dryer. He thinks Toni, a Youth Support Specialist on team, is “cool AF,” and wants Avenues to create programs for first time renters with no credit. He doesn’t believe there should be a waiting list for housing.

“Get a job – it’s kind of hard in this day and age when you need access to multiple things while living on the streets,” Kell said.

Kell’s experience with job hunting is similar to many who are experiencing homelessness. It’s easy to think that jobs are a quick answer to homelessness, especially with the abundant job market, but getting one is harder than it seems, let alone a job that will pay for an average rate apartment in the Twin Cities.

“You need transportation, nice clothes and hygiene, a phone to keep in contact with the job, an ID, birth certificate, and sometimes even a SSN card,” Kell explained. “All very difficult to get when you have none, and all while never having a decent meal for yourself.”

When youth enter Avenues programs, one of the first things staff do is identify what forms of identification youth have. Most don’t have a driver’s license or state ID, and many couldn’t get one even if they wanted to. It’s common for youth to have lost or not have access to their birth certificates and social security cards. These documents are vital for obtaining ID, and needed when getting hired.

It can take a long time for staff and youth to obtain these documents, especially because it’s not uncommon for youth to be born in a different state or even a different country. While youth wait for these documents, finding a job is difficult, and so is enrollment in school, college, job training programs or any other activity that requires an ID.  

Since being at Avenues, Kell obtained the documents he needed and is working with staff on finding job training programs. While obtaining vital documents continues to be a struggle, the current employment crisis has been beneficial for young people at Avenues. There’s more job training programs and jobs available, and the majority of youth at Avenues are working right now.

Still, Kell wants the general public to remember that “getting a job” isn’t a simple solution. His dream for society is, “For people to stop labeling and judging one another. Working together actually works if you can imagine yourself in some else’s shoes.”