Most young adults experiencing homelessness in Boston are also unemployed, compounding the difficulty of establishing a safe home and a better future. But a new initiative, funded by a competitive national grant, aims to spark employment solutions for these young people.

Rising Together: Creating New Pathways to Employment for Youth and Young Adults Experiencing Homelessness convenes partners from the public, private, and non-profit sectors to better identify, train, and employ these youth and young adults. Over the course of the project’s two-and-a-half year span, Rising Together aims to create a toolkit for partners, train front-line staff, provide relevant resources, and produce a final report highlighting the unique challenges at the intersection of workforce development and youth homelessness.

Rising Together will begin quarterly convenings of its partners – employers, service providers, and other community organizations – this Spring.

Background

Since 2017, the City of Boston and community partners have been working on a coordinated plan to better support youth and young adults who are experiencing homelessness. That plan, released in November 2019, focuses on developing a collaborative system, improving early identification and outreach, strengthening resources, and investing in new housing and services.

Rising Together builds on this plan by bringing a concerted focus to the employment part of the equation. The initiative is funded by a $75,000 grant awarded in May 2019 by Heartland Alliance’s National Center on Employment and Homelessness. Boston was one of seven communities nationwide to receive this competitive grant. Rising Together was further bolstered by a $240,000 grant from the Liberty Mutual Foundation, announced this month.

Lynn Sanders, of the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development, accepts the Liberty Mutual grant award on behalf of Rising Together at a Jan. 10 ceremony.

Work Underway

In its first few months, Rising Together has:

  • held bi-weekly meetings of its steering committee to define the initiative’s scope of work, formalize partner commitment, and begin the planning process
  • created a webpage to inform the public of its work and solicit new partners
  • hired a program manager to oversee all aspects of the initiative
Calpurnyia Roberts, Rising Togethers new program manager.

“I’ve been really impressed with how the steering committee is working together. They’re so committed to the youth,” said Calpurnyia Roberts, Rising Together’s new program manager. “If it continues like this, we will definitely be able to accomplish our goals with the energy we have. That energy is golden.”

Roberts brings considerable energy and experience herself. With a PhD in epidemiology, she previously directed research and evaluation at the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene in the South Bronx Office. In this role, she led multiple projects, including a study of pregnancy rates among LGBTQIA teens, predominantly of color.

“Once I started working with the youth, I was really drawn to them, listening to them speak about their concerns,” she said. “They were so well informed. I was really impressed.”

While her academic training focused on public health, Roberts says her work with teens underscored how economics and other social factors play an outsized role in health and well-being. Homelessness looms large as one of those factors.

“I have had homelessness in my family,” she said. “I understand it can occur to anyone, at anytime.”

Is your company or organization interested in joining Rising Together? Get updates on convenings, trainings, and more.

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