Precarious Work and the Employment-based Safety Net

Welfare reform to encourage work doesn’t take into account how unstable jobs have become, especially for the poorest.

The phone call with a job offer from Chicago City Custodial Services came just days before the La Casa family homeless shelter was going to evict Jennifer Hernandez for failure to find work. For 10 months, she and her two kids had been living on cash income below $2 per person, per day, moving from one shelter to the next across the city. Luckily, Chicago City didn’t care that her address marked her as homeless or that her broken glasses sat askew on her face. All this position required was a desire to work hard for little pay.