Youth Employment Survey

During the winter of 2019-20, and with funding from the Youth Homelessness Innovation Fund, Inspiration Corporation conducted a survey of youth experiencing homelessness who were on the City of Chicago’s housing waitlist, called the Coordinated Entry System (CES). The purpose of this CES survey for youth was to help provide a better understanding of the employment goals, assets, and needs of young adults, ages 18-24, experiencing homelessness.  

Initial results from the survey show that over a third of those interviewed are currently employed, with 40% working more than 30 hours each week. Almost a quarter of respondents had attended at least some college, and many reported excellent job search skills. These results highlight the financial challenges associated with working low-wage jobs while trying to secure stable housing.  

These findings seem to demonstrate work readiness on a surface levelbut respondents identified deeper barriers to employment such as trauma, disability or health issues, interaction with the criminal legal system, and discrimination. These barriers point to the need to provide relevant employment supports for youth experiencing trauma, focus on employment stability and advancement, and increase success rates in long-term programs or education 

By identifying gaps in service provision and gathering more detailed information on youth experiencing homelessness, Inspiration Corporation hopes to drive awareness and help build a community of support for youth affected by homelessness. With these insights, service providers in Chicago will be able to work together to tailor existing services and develop innovative new solutions.

Click here to view full report


  • 37% of people employed at the time of the survey and another 45% employed within the last twelve months
  • Only 6% had never worked, and 55% had three or more years of cumulative work experience
  • Jobs were mostly temporary, entry-level positions paying at or near minimum wage
  • The majority of this group of people would not be best served by typical job-readiness programs or programs with rapid placement into entry-level work


    • Full array of supportive services is needed
    • Respondents faced a variety of other barriers to employment, although no one issue was shared by a majority of people

    • 1/5 of respondents indicated that their race, gender identity or sexual orientation had been a barrier to their employment
    • In spite of the obstacles in people’s way, the survey also highlighted the resilience and hope inherent among the respondents