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In the past year, Hippy Feet has shifted our mission to solely focus on creating job opportunities for homeless youth. Our goal as an organization has always been to act as a support system for those that need one the most, and we’ve realized that the best way to do so is through job creation.
Our employment efforts began in the winter of 2017, and over the past 2 years Hippy Feet has continued to improve upon these efforts. We now provide jobs to the homeless through a program called “Pop-Up Employment”. Pop-Up Employment is how every pair of Hippy Feet socks is packaged. We bring our socks and packaging materials directly to non-profits and youth drop-in centers/shelters, and offer jobs to the homeless youth using these locations. This method of employment is given under the supervision of the non-profit staff, ensuring that the young people are receiving barrier-free income in a safe and healthy environment.
These young people are paid an hourly wage and receive the income immediately after their shift is complete. This way, the youth are able to receive income in a way that respects their dignity as individuals. Rather than being given a hand out, or pursuing income through other, more hazardous methods, our youth workers are able to earn their dollars. They earn a legitimate income while adding experience and skills to their resume.
After a year of weekly employment sessions in Minneapolis, we decided it was time to take Hippy Feet’s Pop-Up Employment Program on the road. Our goal was to test that this is an employment opportunity that can be applied in any city, wherever there are homeless youth in need of a job. In the last month, Hippy Feet has brought our Pop-Up Employment Program to both Duluth, MN and Chicago, IL.
Pop-Up Employment at Night Ministry in Chicago
During these two employment trips, Hippy Feet worked with a combined 18 different homeless youth in these cities and provided over 36 hours of employment. We were thrilled to see how well both the young people and the staff at each shelter responded to this program. One young man who participated in our Chicago employment session said, “It was an honor to offer up my services even for just 2 hours. It definitely taught me how to develop a routine and I discovered skills I didn’t know I had.”
Following each of the Pop-Up Employment sessions, we asked the staff at the shelter a simple question - do you see value in what we’re providing? In each case, we received encouraging words of support. Luke Morcomb, the Futures Program Manager at Life House in Duluth said, “ Life House appreciates the opportunity Hippy Feet extended to the youth we serve. Pop-up employment while short term offers youth a safe way to earn needed income. Pop-up employment also pads resumes, increases the availability of references, and provides a couple hours of structure... something homeless and street engaged youth need.“
Michael (Hippy Feet), Luke (Life House)
With these positive responses from both youth and staff, we’re continuing to look for ways to grow our Pop-Up Employment Program. The temporary income that Hippy Feet provides is something that can be incredibly impactful for a homeless individual. This is cash that can help assist with groceries, transportation, diapers, shelter, etc. We recognize that Pop-Up Employment isn’t a permanent solution, rather we treat it as a stepping stone for homeless individuals who are on a track towards full-time employment and self-sufficiency.
In Minneapolis, where we’ve been able to work with some people more consistently, we’ve noticed even deeper impacts. The young people we work with leave more confident, and in many cases are able to secure more full-time employment opportunities outside of Hippy Feet. Recently, we’ve been able to connect 2 of our youth workers to an internship with the Minneapolis Downtown Council, where the youth will work 100 hours each in the month of April, as supervisors of the Chameleon Shoppes pop-up stores in Gaviidae Commons.
Since the inception of Pop-Up Employment, Hippy Feet has now provided over 1,000 hours of employment to 70+ different homeless youth and aim to significantly add to these numbers over the next year. We are eager to continue to share with you our efforts to provide employment and opportunity to young people affected by homelessness.