By Yvette A. Núñez and Dave Shaffer – Guest Columnists
Jul 6, 2018, 2:52pm
While conversations around workforce development are happening all over the city, organizations are still struggling to find tangible ways to bring more nontraditional populations into the workforce, particularly the homeless and panhandling communities.
According to the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services there are still 1,020 unsheltered homeless in Philadelphia as of January 2018 – an increase from previous years. Furthermore, our city still holds the title of highest poverty rate – 26 percent—of the 10 largest cities in the U.S.
These aren’t numbers we’re proud of, but they are numbers that we can change.
At both the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia and First Step Staffing, we are deeply committed to growth and prosperity for all, regardless of zip code. That is why we have partnered in an unprecedented way to build a pipeline of employers willing to hire from the homeless and panhandling populations. We have worked together on hosting roundtables for employers to ask questions about what this would mean for their organizations while also broadly sharing First Step Staffing’s merits to businesses in the region.
In addition to those activities, last month, business and civic leaders gathered at Taller Puertorriqueño in Philadelphia’s Fairhill neighborhood to hear how different organizations are leading citywide initiatives, partnering with service providers, and employing the homeless population. Panelists Julie Coker Graham, President and CEO at the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB), Steven Cook, Co-Founder at CookNSolo Restaurant Partners & Rooster Soup Co., Grace Manning, Manager of Social Impact and Administration at Saxbys, and Joanne McFall, Market President at Keystone First shared their own success stories and provided solutions for business growth while also having a positive impact on Philadelphia.
First Step Staffing’s business model of temporary staffing has successfully given clients excellent workers while offering employment for those who are homeless or ex-offenders. Saxbys employs from the homeless population by working with YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School and Covenant House. They also run a Café Executive Officer (CEO) program that trains staff to take on leadership roles within the company’s cafes. At Rooster Soup Co., 100% of profits go to support vulnerable Philadelphians through their partnership with Broad Street Ministry’s Hospitality Collaborative.
These are just some of the ways that Philadelphia businesses are fighting to mitigate homelessness in our city. Other takeaways from the event include:
• Nonprofit partners can be key to vetting and supporting employees;
• Social impact has a positive effect on company culture;
• Mentorship can make the difference in helping someone succeed; and
• Creative solutions to business problems can result in finding ways to do well and do good.
One of the Roadmap for Growth Action Team (Roadmap)’s missions is to make these goals apparent and feasible for Philadelphia businesses. Roadmap provides a multifaceted approach to community engagement with the goal of improving the economic and civic lives of every Philadelphian. This is accomplished through the 160 Chamber members and partners who have joined the Action Team.
Initially launched in Atlanta, First Step Staffing now has an office in Philadelphia and is a proud Roadmap partner. First Step aims to employ those who struggle most to break their own cycles of poverty, giving preference to those who have recently experienced homelessness, military veterans, and individuals who have been previously incarcerated.
Together, the business community can propel our City forward by identifying and/or creating opportunities within its workforce for our most vulnerable.
If you would like to get involved in Roadmap, email Yvette A. Núñez at email@example.com.
Yvette Núñez is Vice President of Civic Affairs at the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia and also oversees the Roadmap for Growth Action Team. Dave Shaffer is CEO of First Step Staffing.