According to a report from the Dallas news, there are currently 31,000 Dallas residents living in poverty despite being employed full-time. That’s 31,000 people who’ve managed to find and keep a job in the tight Dallas market, but still can’t manage to break the cycle of poverty.
Of course, we know a myriad of factors are driving that cycle, but this statistic still raises an important question: What happens to the tens of thousands living below the poverty line who can’t find full-time or even part-time work? Or worse, the ones who’ve given up the search entirely?
Who are the unemployed?
Before we explore those questions, it’s important to precisely define unemployment.
We typically think of the unemployed as anyone without a job, but unemployment figures actually refer to people who are actively looking for work and cannot find it — and that number is higher than you might think. In fact, Matthew O’Brien noted in the Atlantic in late 2013 that millions of Americans cannot even get employers to so much as look at their resumes, leading the average unemployed worker to exit the job market around 21 weeks of searching.
Oddly enough, once an unemployed person exits the market they’re no longer considered “unemployed,” so the true number of jobless individuals is potentially much higher than reported.
These individuals are known as the “discouraged.” Why? Because long-term unemployment is defined as looking for work for 27 weeks or more, and once someone hits that not-so-magic number, they are less attractive to potential employers and less likely to find a job. For example, someone facing unemployment for longer than six-months has only a three percent chance of being called back after applying to a similar profession to their previous one, compared to 17 percent for those who are short-term unemployed.
Simply put, the longer one is unemployed, the more likely they are to stay unemployed — talk about discouraging. This is where unemployment becomes chronic, re-entering the workforce can prove to be nearly impossible, and the realities of not having meaningful work — let alone any work — begin to manifest.
We spend more time working than doing almost anything else, so for most of us, a job is about more than just a paycheck. It’s a defining part of our existence that provides routine and security, not to mention community and connection to others. Indeed, good work gives us meaning, dignity, purpose and a livelihood.
Joblessness, on the other hand, is correlated with poor nutrition and health, as well as high property crime and increased drug use. Depression is more common in the unemployed, occurring at more than twice the rate than those with full-time work and, for the long-term unemployed, it’s even higher. Often, that depression is accompanied by anxiety, low self-esteem and hopelessness, which only makes it more challenge for these individuals to get back in the game.
A New (Career) Path
Grim as the picture may appear though, Prime 5 is poised to restore hope to those in Dallas struggling to find and keep a job.
See, Stand Together believe that work is the most direct way to rise out of poverty. But we also understand the barriers keeping motivated workers out of stable, rewarding, and fulfilling careers.
So, utilizing Prime 5 funds and Stand Together’s innovative Catalyst Program, we’ll seek out Dallas-based for-purpose organizations who are working hard to provide opportunities for Dallas’s unemployed, and help them scale their impact. Specifically, we’re looking for organizations who provide both the skills-training necessary for individuals to thrive at work, but also the life skills and community support they need to excel after 5pm.
Though we’re only in the application phase of Prime 5, several Stand Together Catalysts are already implementing this sort of programming in cities across the state of Texas.
- Jeremiah Program: This innovative organization aims to break the cycle of poverty for low-income single mothers and their children, two generations at a time. Though they opt for a holistic approach that includes everything from providing access to safe, affordable housing, to early childhood education programs, they are largely focused helping women find work. They not only help individuals develop the personal skills needed to secure employment, they also provide short and long-term career coaching to help women find work they are passionate about.
- The WorkFaith Connection: Based in Houston, The WorkFaith Connection helps people in transition build a new life through work and faith by connecting disadvantaged job seekers with the skills, opportunities, training, and support they need to make a lasting change. More than skills and training, The WorkFaith Connection fosters relationship and community through a family atmosphere for students and graduates — a place they can turn to when searching for guidance, support, and encouragement in challenging times.
- Youth Entrepreneurs: Originally founded Wichita, Kansas, Youth Entrepreneurs seeks to stop unemployment before it starts by teaching students the skills and knowledge of business ownership, as well as the important human values that will guide them to success in the workplace and in life. Courses are led by both education and business mentors from the community, who present a curriculum founded upon the belief that core values — such as responsibility, freedom, sound judgment, passion, and acting with integrity — are key to a student’s success today and in the future.
These are just a few of the remarkable Stand Together Catalysts who are driving change in our state and across the country. Since enrollment began, we’ve connected with a number of Dallas-based organizations who are putting innovative solutions like these to work for Dallas’s unemployed. Though we have a long way to go before we can create lasting change, we are truly inspired by the possibilities our partnership with Stand Together and our soon-to-be Catalysts!