How I’m working to end youth homelessness with Hays’ Project Flourish

8 min read | Jamie Houlders | Article | Recruiting

end youth homelessness with Hays’ Project Flourish

I’m Jamie, project lead of Flourish – a branch of the Hays business launched in 2023 that seeks to support young people to get into work and/or training to help get them out of homelessness. 

It’s estimated that 136,000 young people (an increase of 7,000 on the year before) approached their local authority over the past year because they were at risk of homelessness – that’s one young person every four minutes.

Every day, I’m reminded why we need to do something positive to give hope to those young people in need of support. Having a home, then gaining and sustaining employment are two of the biggest milestones a young person will face. Often, for many young people, this needs to happen at the same time – and it’s something we’re focusing on as a business priority. 

The below is a snapshot of my three-day Project Flourish roadshow in London.


Day 1 – Presenting to one of Hays’ London teams of recruitment consultants to raise awareness

After several cancelled and delayed trains, I finally arrived in London for my three-day Project Flourish roadshow. These three days would be a series of meetings that would bring together the corporate world and the charity sector, in a bid to create greater opportunities for some of the most disadvantaged young people in our communities – and I was looking forward to them.

First stop: my presentation to one of our Hays teams in London to introduce and update on Project Flourish. The goal of this presentation was to raise awareness of the programme and to coordinate employer events to help commence Project Flourish across London in 2024.

I was very excited about the plans we have for rolling out Project Flourish across London, as these will create fantastic opportunities for disadvantaged young people, while ensuring both the young person and the employer have the end-to-end tailored support to enable. 

Thank you to the Hays team, especially the excellent Andy Cook (Client Director), Rosie Whitley (Social Purpose Coordinator) and Hannah Parker (Personal Assistant) for helping to arrange this session. 


"Sadly, 30 people in just one day had asked for help from the Skylight Centre as they were at risk of being made homeless."


Day 2 – Filming our Project Flourish promo series to help spread the word across the UK

I take a visit to Hays Plc headquarters in Triton Street to be interviewed for a series of Project Flourish promo videos. 

After filming, I take the opportunity to catch up with the managing director of EveryYouth, Nick Connolly, and we discuss how we can develop our collaboration with EveryYouth and shape Project Flourish, so it has a wider impact across the UK.



Working with Crisis to expand Project Flourish’s reach to support more homeless young people

I then headed to Crisis in Commercial Street to present to their advisory board about Project Flourish.

"Hays will be an official signatory of Crisis’ Homelessness Covenant."


I was fortunate enough to have a tour of their new Skylight Centre, and had the opportunity to spend time with some of the board and the great people who work there. Sadly, 30 people in just one day had asked for help from the Skylight Centre as they were at risk of being made homeless.

I informed Crisis that Hays will be an official signatory of their ‘Homelessness Covenant,’ in partnership with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). We look forward to working with DWP and DLUHC, and supporting other employers who are seeking to play a role in ending homelessness in our society.  

Finally, I was invited to become a member of the Crisis advisory board and I’ve agreed that Project Flourish will also support their ‘Job Brokerage’ pilots early in 2024.

A stark reminder of how easy it is to become homeless

"His life fell apart when he lost his job and turned to alcohol."


Yet again, the reality of the situation hit me as I walked to the tube station. I was approached by a young man who needed help. He told me how he needed accommodation, and, while Crisis was arranging six days over Christmas, and St Mungo’s had been very supportive, he was struggling to secure somewhere to stay that night. 

He told me his life fell apart when he lost his job and turned to alcohol. He has two children and is determined to be a good father by, first, getting somewhere to stay, and then through securing a job, so he’ll be able to get back on his feet and rebuild his life. 

I offered as much help as I could (it never feels enough…) and we shook hands as he said to me, “I will keep positive and optimistic about my future because I have to.”


Day 3 – Feeling reflective during my last day in London

The final day started with a quarterly review meeting with Simon Winfield (Hays CEO – UK and Ireland) and Karen Young (Hays Director – Social & Environmental Purpose). Both parties were thrilled with the plans for Project Flourish in 2024 and they expressed their ongoing support for this programme. 

The initial idea and need to further collaborate with EveryYouth to really make a difference came from conversations between our UK and Ireland CEO and the MD of EveryYouth. I always walk away from these meetings feeling totally backed but still with plenty to do!

Next, I made a quick stop off in a café at Kings Cross, where I had the chance to update the Head of Operations at EveryYouth, Emma Cairns, with the outcomes of the last three days. Our collaboration with EveryYouth is very strong, and Emma and I meet every week to discuss progress and agree actions going forward. It’s great to be able to do this face-to-face this time.

As I was nearly home, I reflected on the past few days. I returned feeling more determined than ever to help some of the most disadvantaged young people in the UK gain and sustain meaningful employment through Project Flourish, and I felt – and still feel – very excited about our plans for 2024. 

If you’re an employer and wish to find out more about hiring undiscovered talent from the homeless community, or if you want to simply find out how you can get involved, please contact me.

About this author

Jamie Houlders – Project Flourish Lead – Hays in collaboration with EveryYouth. 

Jamie leads on our pro-bono employability programme to provide disadvantaged young people the skills and tools needed to secure and succeed in meaningful employment, as well as support the employer to create inclusive processes and positive environments, enabling the young people to ‘Flourish.’ Jamie is a director who has worked across many of our businesses UK wide over the past 20 years.

articleId- 65513458, groupId- 20151