If we ignore the ex-homeless candidates we don’t employ then we are being elitist

  • Charlie Dorman
Over the last couple of years we haven’t been able to stop thinking about the hundreds of great candidates affected by homelessness that we couldn’t employ.
Don’t get us wrong, we’re incredibly proud to have helped 180 people make their way out of homelessness and transform their lives through providing them with a job. We don’t feel like we’ve failed, but we don’t feel comfortable with ignoring the others that we couldn’t employ and we estimate that is around 90% of the candidates we’ve met over the years.
The reason these candidates weren’t offered a job or a place on our employment programme wasn’t due to an issue of scale, quite the opposite; it was a whole bunch of other requirements that didn’t align with the job role that we offer and we simply can’t put someone into a job that they are not suitable for, it wouldn’t be fair. So, at times we’ve found ourselves with more ex-homeless vacancies than we can fill. This bothers us.
And speaking to other social enterprises and charities in the sector, we know they face similar challenges. For example, inconsistencies in the definition of work-readiness and difficulty in reaching other employers, to name just a couple.
Between us, even if we only have the capacity or ability to employ around 10% of the referrals we get from homelessness charities, we still have a responsibility to the other 90%. And if we don’t face up to that then we are all being elitist.
In March 2017 we got all of this off our chest at a gathering facilitated by Change Please including the amazing Sir John Bird, and host of other great minds from charities and businesses also looking break the cycle of homelessness through employment.
We put something on the table that we’d been developing for some time: We proposed the development of a universal framework of best practice that will help social enterprises and charities work together more effectively to employ ex-homeless people, better.
For this pilot to be successful it needed to be facilitated and administrated by a party that is neutral, such as Social Enterprise UK (SEUK). So we asked them – and they said yes!
Together with Social Enterprise UK we’ve invited a small group of charities and social enterprises to join a steering group to pool experiences and find solutions to our common issues.
The steering group first got together to kick-off the pilot in October 2017 and includes:
Beyond Food Change Please Connection at St Martins Connection Crew House of St Barnabas St Mungos Crisis Restart
This is by no means a small feat so we’ve started off this process by piloting what a successful framework and referral scheme between the select group of social enterprises and charities addressing homelessness could look like, before rolling it out more widely.
Project objectives: • To improve and increase the chances of homeless people getting into long-term employment smoothly • To strengthen the network of organisations working to help people out of homelessness and into employment and ways-of working between them • To end up with guidance that can be distributed and disseminated more widely to support the above, it should be open source
We are approaching the last phase of the initial pilot so watch this space for the findings of ‘Piloting at better route out of homelessness and into employment.’