KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Shelter KC discovered housing costs are one of the biggest barriers to independence for employed, but homeless, Kansas Citians.
The shelter's Launch program helps people get back on their feet and find jobs, but rising up-front costs for housing are a problem.
“Getting employment is pretty easy, it’s getting the job that pays enough to pay the housing, that’s where the gap is,” said Eric Burger, Shelter KC's executive director.
Burger says the Launch program focuses on getting people whatever help they may need to finally reach independence.
“The first thing is we want to make sure that we understand is why you’re homeless," Burger said. "Sometimes it’s just because of a job loss, but if there’s a mental health issue, if there’s substance abuse, if there’s something else going on let’s make sure we’re addressing that issue first. Making sure you get help, making sure you’re ready to have employment."
He said many people in the shelter right now are employed or in training.
"Almost a fourth of our population is employed when they become homeless," Burger said. "That is becoming more common."
The goal of the Launch program for those people is to find a way to increase their ability to earn a higher income.
"They then have a life coach that works through that, so that’s after our 14-day emergency shelter and then pretty much as long as you’re working towards independence and working on getting a job or getting training for a job, we’re going to keep on extending you," Burger said.
The help is designed to point those in the program to jobs where they can earn a decent living and finding housing.
“And we might say, 'Let’s have you go to forklift driver school, let’s have you go to truck driver school,' Burger said. "Let’s have you do something that takes you up the next notch so that you really have a livable wage.'”
The success is leading to expansion.
Burger says Tuesday the shelter will be renovating and adding dorms for the working homeless so shift workers with odd hours don't have to disturb others in the shelter when they get up and get ready for work.
It also adds a layer of independence, one Burger hopes helps people step up and over the hurdles to housing.