First Step News

Los Angeles and San Bernandino Counties Consider First Step Rapid Employment Model to Address Homelessness


The recent e-newsletter from the American Roundtable to Abolish Homelessness wrote a piece on employment scaling for homeless people in Los Angeles county and San Bernandino county.  It read:

Employment has long been a vacuum in homeless policy, an orphan in our policy household. There have been many boutique programs without scale to impact the size of the need, as well as programs that keep homeless people in a state of transitioning without a future trajectory of independence. A business model at work in several cities may be the key to change

David Shaffer, CEO, First Step Staffing detailed the First Step approach that upgrades boutique employment initiatives – that bring little scale and replicability in their wake – to yield results. The premise is simple – buy staffing agencies, keep the professional staff and corporate contracts, and sequentially re-purpose the jobs to homeless people over time through attrition. The resources to purchase the staffing agencies come largely from CDFI’s, who have funded First Step in Atlanta and Philadelphia, and smaller investments from local government.

Both Los Angeles County and San Bernardino County are in the process of exploring the implementation of First Step. Once the initial investment is made and the staffing company purchased, First Step has a substantial revenue stream and does not need further government funds. While the original intent was for homeless people, the initiative makes sense for other vulnerable populations including foster care age-outs, rapid rehousing households, people exiting jails and prisons, and more.

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