Hidden Homelessness Among Employees and How Employers Can Help
Does it strike you as odd that people in jobs are experiencing homelessness? The sad truth: Having a job doesn’t guarantee housing stability.
In fact, 64.4% of employees nationwide live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to handle unexpected expenses, leading to homelessness. Furthermore, the cost of living, particularly in major cities, has increased so dramatically in the past few decades that even those earning over $100,000 annually often live paycheck to paycheck.
“Unfortunately, 11% of Americans don’t have a safety net,” says Wellspring CEO Heather Fitzpatrick. “They don’t have friends or family members of means who could help them out. They don’t have savings or the ability to borrow. They simply can’t handle unexpected expenses. The same ones we all have, just about every year. And this is the most common cause of homelessness.”
Fitzpatrick said that the financial anxiety that precedes and accompanies homelessness can be extreme. While employees work hard to keep their jobs, they are often distracted and more likely to make mistakes.
Most employees facing or experiencing homelessness do not tell their employer because they are worried about losing their job or being judged. Moreover, employees cannot access government housing programs as these resources prioritize individuals with significant barriers to finding housing.
As a result, employees are left on their own to find housing solutions. The financial anxiety that precedes homelessness results in 23 to 31 days of lost productive work time per year, and can cause employee turnover. This is expensive for businesses as replacing employees can cost up to one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary.
How employers can support employees and reduce costly turnover
To address this issue, Wellspring Family Services has launched an innovative employee benefit program called the Wellspring Employee Stability Program (ESP). It has two components: confidential case management and financial support. The case management services are delivered by experienced housing stability specialists with training in financial coaching, and financial support is paid directly to third-party vendors, such as landlords or utility companies, ensuring payment remains nontaxable to the employee and the employer. The financial support component is available to employees whose households earn 80% or less of the Area Median Income, the definition of low-income under the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Wellspring is selling this program nationwide and has designed it to work together with an employer’s existing benefit programs. It can be purchased with Wellspring EAP or separately. According to Fitzpatrick, “We expect that employers who offer the Wellspring Employee Stability Program will generate $3 to $10 in productivity improvement and reduced turnover for every $1 invested.”
Wellspring’s Employee Stability Program can help prevent employee homelessness, promote a stronger workforce, and benefit businesses by increasing productivity and reducing employee turnover.
Learn how Wellspring’s ESP can support your workforce. Request a quote today.