bench sleeper

Fighting for Jobs

How does the job market in Gainesville relate to homelessness?

A man shows off his work gloves

When considering the fact that 70.5 percent of homeless persons in Gainesville do not have jobs, unemployment is an issue that must be addressed.

"More and more individuals find themselves laid off with nowhere to go," Annette Kennedy said, a case manager of FloridaWorks, an organization that helps people to find employment. "It's very simple. People need jobs."

Because Gainesville is a college town with few factories and very little manufacturing, there are not many jobs available to low-skilled workers, she said.

Furthermore, college students with higher skill levels take many of the available jobs, creating a competitive market for homeless individuals.

Although there are still various positions available around the city, many of them are not conducive to individuals with mental illnesses or physical impairments. According to GRACE for the Homeless, 23 percent of the single homeless population suffers from mental illness, and 30 percent of the homeless population is impaired with drug/alcohol addiction.

Chronic homelessness is also a major factoring contributing to unemployment in Gainesville. Many homeless persons are unable to handle boundaries and have no desire to get off the streets, Jon DeCarmine said, the executive director of the City of Gainesville/ Alachua County Office on Homelessness.

"Often times individuals cannot be helped because they themselves do not desire change," DeCarmine said. "Homelessness can become a way of life."

The result of these factors: a vast amount of homeless persons in Gainesville are unable to work.

Despite these deplorable conditions, there is hope within the community. Organizations such as FloridaWorks are designed to assist unemployed individuals with job-seeking and training skills, and about nine out of 10 individuals who enroll in the program retain employment, Annette Kennedy said.

"We help individuals who hit rock bottom get back on their feet again," she said. "People are always capable of climbing out of the holes they fall into."

At the multiple FloridaWorks One-Stop Career Centers in Gainesville, all individuals are welcome to conduct job searches, create resumes, to receive computer training and call/e-mail employers.

Long-term assistance is crucial for a homeless individual to be successfully employed, according to GRACE for the Homeless. Therefore the two year program offered by FloridaWorks is one of the most advantageous programs to enroll in.

"We are committed to bringing about change in our community," Kennedy said.

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