More Than Just a Job: A Social Enterprise's Response to Homelessness

Molly Cook, Illinois State University

Imported from ProQuest Cook_ilstu_0092N_11239.pdf

Abstract

For the first time since 2010, the number of individuals experiencing homelessness increased in the United States in 2017 (HUD 2017). A lack of affiliations with family and friends has been suggested as a cause of homelessness (Burt 1992; Jencks 1995; Lippert and Lee 2015). This study employs affiliation theory, thematic coding, and 21st century coding methods to examine social enterprise employment as a solution to ending homelessness and increasing the number and types of affiliations individuals gain while working at a social enterprise. Seven interviews were conducted at one case study social enterprise with the goal of employing the homeless. Results suggest that social enterprise leadership staff members balance social and economic goals by facilitating increased affiliation for employees via bonding social capital with enterprise leadership and other employees as well as through bridging social capital between employees and employers and social service agencies. Enterprise leadership staff also provide an understanding environment, and employees gain increased social skills and feelings of utility through their employment, whereas enterprise leadership staff balance challenges of mental illness and high turn-over for employees. This enterprise is based in a city that has social support systems in place for individuals experiencing homelessness, allowing employees to increase their affiliations outside of the enterprise. The results suggest that social enterprise employment increases the number and types of positive affiliations for employees experiencing homelessness.