Tuesday, September 30, 2014

More to fuel the minimum wage debate

An Associated Press article published on Fox News website on July 19, 2014 titled “Job growth picks up in states that raised minimum wage” brought some interesting data to consider when debating increases in the minimum wage. I’ve included excerpts below, but you can read the whole article at http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/07/19/job-growth-picks-up-in-states-that-raised-minimum-wage/.
advertisementMaybe a higher minimum wage isn't so bad for job growth after all.
“The 13 U.S. states that raised their minimum wages at the beginning of this year are adding jobs at a faster pace than those that did not, providing some counter-intuitive fuel to the debate over what impact a higher minimum has on hiring trends.

Many business groups argue that raising the minimum wage discourages job growth by increasing the cost of hiring. A Congressional Budget Office report earlier this year lent some support for that view. It found that a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour, as President Obama supports, could cost 500,000 jobs nationwide.

But the state-by-state hiring data, released Friday by the Labor Department, provides ammunition to those who disagree. Economists who support a higher minimum say the figures are encouraging, though they acknowledge they don't establish a cause and effect. There are many possible reasons hiring might accelerate in a particular state.

"It raises serious questions about the claims that a raise in the minimum wage is a jobs disaster," said John Schmitt, a senior economist at the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research. The job data "isn't definitive," he added, but is "probably a reasonable first cut at what's going on."
Some economists argue that six months of data isn't enough to draw conclusions.

"It's too early to tell," said Stan Veuger, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. "These states are very different along all kinds of dimensions."

For example, the number of jobs in North Dakota — which didn't raise the minimum wage and has prospered because of a boom in oil and gas drilling — rose 2.8 percent since the start of this year, the most of any state.

But job growth in the aging industrial state of Ohio was just 0.7 percent after its minimum rose to $7.95 from $7.85. The federal minimum wage is $7.25.

Veuger, one of the 500 economists who signed a letter in March opposed to an increase in the federal minimum, said the higher wages should over time cause employers to hire fewer workers. They may also replace them with new technologies.

The Congressional Budget Office cited those factors in its February report. But in addition to job losses, the CBO also said a higher minimum could boost paychecks for another 16.5 million workers.

Sylvia Allegretto, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, said that research comparing counties in states that raised their minimums with neighboring counties in states that did not has found no negative impact on employment.

Restaurants and other low-wage employers may have other ways of offsetting the cost of higher wages, aside from cutting back on hiring, she said. Higher pay can reduce staff turnover and save on hiring and training costs.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Intake Matters: Open Mind

By Intake and Resident Specialist Holly Gardner

I love the freshness of moving in a new family, especially the ones you can tell right off the bat are going to work with the staff here in good ways and meet their goals, or at least the majority of them.  I love the enthusiasm and appreciation that they share with me when they get my call letting them know we have a space for them and what their move in day will be.  This is a glow I carry around for hours, sometimes days and helps to remind me to keep an open mind with each new family.  That is the least I can give them.

There are families that seem to run for weeks on that energy.  Yes, they have their setbacks, ups and downs, but they get back on the horse and get their stride.  How do I know these families will have the energy it takes, the right attitude to make it successfully through the program and in to their own housing?  I don’t know, and I can get surprised, but one thing they seem to share in common are manners.  These are the families that tell me thank you, usually over and over again and want to know how to thank others like our apartment prep ladies.  They monitor their kids closely in the lobby and remind them of their manners. They smile more and make eye contact.  They ask me how my day is going. 
Yes, I love move in days and all the potential it brings, like the autumn air there is change, there is potential for growth.  All I have to do is keep an open mind and cheer them on because the families that are going to hit the ground running and make the most out of this program deserve that much from me.  

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Housing Matters: Keeping Families Together

By Housing Placement Specialist Tammy Mayhue

Families who face homelessness run the risk of their families being separated. I personally am grateful for our Interim and Immediate housing programs, because without them many people would fall through the cracks for the very same reasons that caused them to lose their housing in the first place.

Our Interim and Immediate housing stabilize vulnerable families, so they have safe and healthy environments for their children. Families now have a temporary place to call home, as well as the services and support they need to stay together.  Our programs are helping our families stay together.

Though the families we serve are unaware of the behind the scenes work we do to make sure their lives are changed for the better, I do it because it is a privilege working with families who are in need. Even though there are times we may get on our soap box, we still have their best interest at heart. If you listen closely, you will hear us saying how much we want them to succeed and break the cycle of homelessness. We believe they can take control of their lives and provide their children with stable housing.

Without a doubt, working with families who come from all walks of life with many barriers can be challenging, but to see families stay together and leave together into permanent housing, makes the challenge worthwhile. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Programs Matter: Walking against the Wind

By Interim Case Manager Frenchie Pulluaim, MSW

Walking against the wind must be how some of our families feel as they struggle to recognize the negative behaviors that are hindering them. Most of our families want to create positive change in their lives, but when it requires money it is virtually impossible. 

For example, many of our families have arrest records for driving unregistered vehicles, traffic tickets, expired identification , or child support arrears.  These may seem easy to fix, but imagine trying to do so while earning $7.30 hour with 3 children and living expenses.  Another example is the lasting impact of years-old minor drug charges—some as minor as possession of a single marijuana cigarette—that resulted in a felony. Although the charges occurred when the person, now in  his 50’s, was much younger, this one mistake can affect the family for the rest of their lives.

We all make mistakes every now and then, but having resiliency, support, and access to resources make it easier for these families to walk against the wind.  It is then that they can imagine and work toward a life of stability for themselves and their families.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Volunteers Matter: Giving Children a Time to be Kids

By Volunteer Coordinator Lonnie Cohen

Each Tuesday and Thursday night, I watch mothers and fathers bring their children to Children’s Programming where the kids get a chance to spend time interacting with both adults and other kids and taking advantage of the opportunity to “just be kids.”  While many of them face issues at home, coming to programming for these children is a special treat where they either learned new information or a new skill.
In recent months, we’ve been fortunate to add a group of new volunteers to a special group of long-time volunteers in our children’s programing area. With a passion for children, the ability to listen to them and knowing how to let kids be kids are new volunteers Britnee Moore, Myra Jenkins, Sainy Hussan, Alex Sells, Jason Fulp  and Kelvin Walls.  They join long-time children’s program volunteers Stephanie and Gerald Ostapko, Kathy Jarvin, Carolyn Kusman and Tina and Keith McHudson. Our heartfelt appreciation goes to these volunteers who give several hours each week out of these busy schedules to not just do the work, but make our program work while letting the kids in the community have the opportunity to be kids.
A huge thank-you goes to the Children’s Programming volunteers along with the many other Community LINC volunteers for their time, passion and commitment to our mission of ending homelessness, impact poverty and remove the barriers that our families face in achieving self-sufficiency. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Jobs Matter: Employment is Essential

By Employment Job Coach Constance Taylor

Employment is essential for our participants and is an immediate conversation that we have with our participants upon entering our program.  Many individuals have a scattered work history and years of sustaining just above water.

Assessments and conversations say the opposite of what many people believe about themselves.  Our job becomes pretty difficult because it may require having to convince them that they are valuable and capable of so much more than what they are experiencing.  An old proverb, believed to have been recorded as early as 1175, says,  “you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.”  The proverb is true you can’t make the horse drink, but I believe that if the horse is in heat exhaustion long enough and you keep leading it in the right direction, you can only hope that one day it will drink the cool water and be restored.

So it is with the families we serve.  We realize many of them have experienced a trail of homelessness and are pretty hopeless by the time they cross our paths.  Some want to hear the words, “ yes, you are hired” after only a few applications have been submitted.  I know that is not a reality, so I keep encouraging them to work harder and put in more applications because one day it is going to pay off.

The difficult thing is that for many job searchers,  just like the horse that needs the water to be refreshed, but  will not drink it, many of our participants need  income to survive, but will not complete the process necessary until the last hour.  We can only show them the steps and hope and pray that one day, they will extend themselves beyond where they are currently operating until they get the call and hear the words, “yes, you are hired.” 

Although, we have a large percentage of participants that do leave with employment, there is also that small percentage that leaves unemployed.  Often times, after a few months of having left Community LINC, I get a phone call and the person on the end says, “guess what Ms. Connie, I got a job”  I am always so happy to hear that they are employed and able to care for their family sufficiently, without having to search for resources from multiple agencies.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Children Matter: Building a Base Camp

By Children’s Program Coordinator Josh Chittum

As I’ve entered the phase of life where I begin thinking about having my own children, I spend considerable time reflecting upon the goalposts I will use to measure my success as a parent. A primary aspiration is for my child to live the kind of life he or she wants to live with as little restraint as possible. This has caused me to wonder how much restraint and resistance Community LINC youth will face through the rest of their growing up years after they leave our program. Will they enjoy as friction free a journey as I hope for my offspring? In all likelihood they will not.

Instead, a more likely scenario is that Community LINC children and youth will face a perilous journey, akin to climbing a mountain, as they attempt to reach the summit of their dreams. In the process they will struggle against unrelenting winds that will howl in their ears and tell them to turn around and stop trying. Their growing hands will shake as they hold ropes and ladders. And familial troubles will weigh down their packs so much that they may abandon their tents in order to lighten their load and place faith in a God or some other power to shield them from avalanche and sub-zero chill.

It would be fantastic if society whittled down the height of the mountain. It would be fantastic if the climb’s technical difficulties were not largely determined by zip code, race, and/or class. But the reality is the hill is too steep and complaining about it while doing nothing will never get anyone up the mountain side.

Instead of being overwhelmed by the looming mass of rock before our youth, what can we do?

We’re already doing it to some extent. We’ve essentially built a base camp for our children and youth. It’s a little city of tents for respite, for care, and for the teaching of necessary skills. But I want our base camp to become the best base camp a climber could ever want or need. I want our base camp to help lighten the load of our young one’s packs so they never have to abandon their tent. I want our base camp to give them the skills to steady their hands and give the confidence to silence the negativity of the wind.

I cannot make this dream tent city by myself. That’s why I’m looking for help. I am seeking teachers, social workers, mental health experts and anyone else with applicable insight and passion to join a planning group to determine what academic, social, and life skills we can teach our children and youth before they continue their travels. Once the canvass is fully painted, we will begin the work of turning the vision into something tangible. And who knows, maybe the base camp is just the beginning of something even bigger and something with even more impact. But let's build the base camp first and then go from there.

We already have some fantastic Community LINC staff and volunteers who have agreed to be part of this planning group. If you love to think big and love to plan I would be appreciative if you considered joining us. You may contact me anytime to let me know that you’re interested or to ask me question. My number 816-531-6725 and my e-mail is jchittum@communitylinc.org. I hope to hear from you.