Quote of the Day:

“At Wildcat we showed that the best way to get clients off welfare was to get them paid work immediately, rather than enroll them in training and education programs. I saw with my own eyes the value of work—any kind of paid work—in reducing welfare dependency and attacking poverty.”

–Peter Cove, who develops job strategies for the homeless, quoted in Forbes


Peter Cove, founder of America Works, has had enormous success placing welfare recipients, ex-offenders, and others in paying jobs.

Forbes magazine has a must-read article on Cove’s plans to use the same strategies he has used with welfare recipients to find jobs for homeless veterans.

Cove got his start working for a Great Society antipoverty program in the 1960s, but he quickly lost faith in these programs, according to the Forbes profile. He realized that the best weapon against poverty is  . . .  a job.

If a welfare client was able to get an entry level job, Cove discovered, he or she could often begin to solve the other seemingly intractable problems. 

Building on this insight, Cove and his wife and colleague, Dr. Lee Bowes, founded America Works in 1984. It was a huge success. Here is how it works:

America Works put into practice the “work first” model. The idea at the center of this model: welfare recipients benefit most not from the lengthy education, training or counseling programs, but rather from direct placement into a job.

Once people are placed in jobs, they often find ways on their own to address other “static” or challenges in their lives. “When some mothers on welfare came to us, they often explained that they could not work because they had no day care. We would still send them on a job interview, and when the company wanted to hire them, miraculously, they found a grandmother or daycare center.”

Welfare rights activists have rejected the America Works model, insisting it shoves welfare recipients into what it calls “modern slavery.” Unfortunately, though not expressed as blatantly, this seems to be a prevalent, if subliminal, attitude:

In his book, Poor No More: Rethinking Dependency and the War on Poverty,Cove cites an incident from Oakland in which “one man who had been in prison for almost thirty years was insulted when he was offered a job at a small auto parts store for $12 an hour. The probation officer agreed with his indignation. She said, ‘I have never worked for as little as $12 an hour and I do think he should have to.’ Six months later the man was still unemployed and very depressed.”

America Works has outlets in 28 cities and has placed more than 1.5 million low income people in paying jobs. Now, Cover is turning his attention towards a new demographic: the homeless. The organization started with veterans and has place 2,700 in jobs since 2014.America Works has connections with such employers as Starbucks, CVS Pharmacies and Allied Universal Security. If a homeless vet is placed in a job, America Works remains in touch to help.

America Works breaks the mold of services that place people in jobs:

Many service providers utilize elements similar to America Works’ approach: assessment, placement, retention services and job coaching, opportunities for mobility. What differentiates America Works are other characteristics.

One is the emphasis on placement results not process, and willingness to enter into contracts with local and state governments that link payment to results. America Works was the first for-profit welfare to work agency, and for homeless veterans offers governments the opportunity to pay based on the number placed in jobs and retained for at least ninety days.

Second, America Works understands the need at times for repeated job placements. Kyle Wicks is the Site Director in San Francisco for America Works, and emphasizes, “We might have someone lose a job, even a second or third job. We stay with them.” Cove agrees, “The job placement process is one in which people may need to go through several jobs until they get the right fit.”

A former lefty, I became a conservative, or began a journey towards conservatism, by covering a federal jobs training program as a young reporter in New Orleans.

While researching the story, I made a startling discovery: the training program didn’t lead to jobs.

It led to people signing up for training, receiving a stipend, and going on with their lives as usual. No doubt, some of the people I interviewed went onto other job training programs.

I learned that the best training for a job is a job.

That is what America Works knows.

Let’s wish them and the homeless vets they seek to serve success.