** 7/1/20 UPDATE: We have raised the amount that we're paying young people in our employment program from $11/hr to $12/hr (or minimum wage, whichever is higher) **
Hippy Feet’s Pop-Up Employment program allows us to provide jobs to homeless youth, but it helps to have some background first. Why does employment matter?
Young people who are experiencing homelessness face tremendous barriers to gaining employment. Every situation is different. They may not have access to reliable transportation. They may have a previous criminal record, little work experience, or be dealing with mental health issues. The list goes on. We take for granted that we have access to traditional means of generating an income. When the barriers to getting a legitimate job are too great, homeless youth will often turn to earning an income any way they can. At times, the only options available are unhealthy, dangerous, and even illegal. Supporting themselves becomes a matter of survival.
When young people must act out of desperation, they expose themselves to the risk of lasting consequences.
Imagine for a second, you’re a homeless 19 year old in Minnesota. Fall days are comfortable, but nighttime temperatures dip into the 30s. Winter is just around the corner. There are more homeless youth in the area than there are beds at shelters. You desperately want a more stable life, but you’re having trouble finding work. Stealing, selling drugs, or survival sex may be your only options. It’s just for a while, right? It’s the only option you have, and it can help you get back on your feet. So you do it, but get caught and arrested. Now you have a criminal record on top of your previous barriers, further setting you back on your path towards self sufficiency.
This is just one of many ways homelessness becomes a cycle.
This is why Hippy and Pop-Up Employment exist. We provide homeless youth with safe, legal employment opportunities that eliminate many of the barriers they experience looking for jobs elsewhere. Rather than requiring the young people we employ to find us, we go directly to them. We work with homeless youth ages 16-24 by bringing jobs directly to homeless shelters and drop-in centers. This helps eliminate the barrier of unreliable transportation. Popping up at shelters means the young people have a safe environment to work in, as the process takes place under the supervision of shelters.
We provide jobs packaging socks, with every package signed by the homeless youth we hired to do so. Youth are paid $12/hour or minimum wage - whichever is higher in the location we’re “popping up”. Rather than needing to wait two weeks for a check, they leave with cash that they earned for that day’s work. This takes away another barrier. They get the immediate income they need without jeopardizing the safety of themselves or others.
As of October 2019, Hippy Feet has been able to provide these short term jobs to nearly 90 young people experiencing homelessness. This totals almost 1400 hours of total employment. The majority of Hippy Feet’s employment takes place at YouthLink and The Link in Minneapolis, but we’ve also been able to bring Pop-Up Employment to to The Life House in Duluth and Night Ministry in Chicago.
Pop-Up Employment isn’t intended to be a lifelong career for these young people. The purpose of Hippy Feet’s Pop-Up Employment program is to offer youth immediate cash in a safe, healthy way. Our goal is to empower these young people in a way that respects basic human dignity. Participating in our program, they learn basic job skills, pad resumes, and potentially earn a reference for more permanent employment outside of Hippy Feet. We serve as a strong first step on the path towards self sufficiency.
We’re grateful for strong community partners who have made a program like this so impactful. From the shelters who have hosted the program to the local businesses that have hired Pop-Up Employment participants, each organization has helped amplify our impact. There are many ways to support Hippy Feet and our mission of helping homeless youth. Every purchase of Hippy Feet products helps us provide jobs. If you’re an employer in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and you’re interested in offering full or part-time positions to young people who have worked with Hippy Feet, please contact us here.
Together, we can continue to have an amazing impact.