Inadequate income, employment and education are well documented as causes of and contributing factors to people cycling in and out of homelessness. However, on the flip side they also create possibilities for moving from homelessness to housing.

A woman studying for a test.
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Developing education, training and employment (ETE) programs for people experiencing homelessness is different than doing so for the housed population because of exacerbating factors such as lack of a permanent address, inability to maintain proper hygiene or nutrition in a shelter, challenges of following shelter rules while employment, physical or mental health and addictions issues etc. There is a need for skills-based training including job readiness skills and life skills training including money management and cooking/shopping.

Because the education levels of people who are homeless are lower on average than the general public, they may experience challenges with participating in the formal labour market. Programs to help improve the education levels of people experiencing homelessness need to recognize and accommodate these challenges. This is a similar situation for work programs and is one of the reasons why social enterprise programs – which focus more on community good than profit – are so successful in the homelessness sector.

Youth experiencing homelessness have their own unique set of challenges accessing income, education and employment, as do single parents. Most programs for homeless youth in Canada focus on skills development (getting them into the job market) rather than on providing them with the opportunity to finish school. Homeless families also experience challenges in getting adequate educational supports for their children.