A photo of construction workers.
anonphotography.com/Flickr

D.C. recently ended the public revision period concerning DC Works, a part of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). WIOA is a federal law that strives to restructure workforce programs nationwide. If passed, DC Works would provide several local strategies to improve the D.C. employment system.

In the introduction letter to the WIOA Unified State Plan, Mayor Muriel Bowser signed off on a commitment to improve the District workforce. “We will create a workforce ecosystem that is coordinated, easily accessible, customer-focused and efficient,” the letter stated. “We will better leverage the District’s significant investment in workforce training so that our taxpayer dollars are put to good use strengthening our city and keeping us on our pathway to success.”

The DC Works plan was finalized in February and posted for a 30-day public comment period, which ended on March 14. On March 8, the D.C. Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH) and the Workforce Investment Council (WIC) held a public engagement session to discuss DC Works. According to WIC Director Odie Donald, there were no definite plans made between the ICH and WIC, although the organizations do plan to collaborate on the issue of homelessness and unemployment in the future.

Eric Sheptock, a local advocate who lives in the Community for Creative Non-Violence Shelter, attended the session. “There was a pretty good turnout,” he said. “There were about 40 or 50 people there. Most of them were government folks or from nonprofits. There were maybe about 10 homeless people.” Sheptock believes that although the District does need a plan to help homeless people keep jobs, the DC Works plan might leave out one key group of people.

“There are a lot of homeless people who are between 25 and 60 years old. They’re not parents, they’re not in any legal trouble. They’re able-bodied and ready to work,” Sheptock said. He feels that D.C. employment aid leaves out this large group, while developing outreach plans to meet more chronic needs of smaller segments of people, such as those with physical or mental disabilities.

To do his part to bridge this gap, Sheptock is planning to form several small coalitions between local homeless people and government organizations to try and ensure that no homeless subpopulation is left out of legislation. “I don’t just go out and complain,” he said. “I take action.”

The final DC Works plan will be submitted to the U.S. Secretary of Labor and the U.S. Secretary of Education by April 1, 2016.