Would you hire a homeless person?

7 min read | Jamie Houlders | Article | Corporate social responsibility Recruiting

Homelessness misconceptions

Our nation is shouldering a heavy financial burden, with some much worse-off than others, but we mustn’t forget those most hard-up: those who are trying to survive without the comfort, safety and security of a place to call home.

The number of homeless people, and those at risk of becoming homeless, has dramatically increased in recent years and is only set to spike further. It’s vital we’re doing all we can to resolve this worsening crisis, but insights suggest our economically challenged nation isn’t feeling they’re in much of a position to help.

Bleak data reflects a turbulent economy

At least 309,000 people in England are homeless right now. Of this figure, over 3,000 are sleeping rough, 20,000 reside in hostels or supported accommodation, and a colossal 279,400 are placed in temporary housing – a figure that’s skyrocketed 14% in the past year alone.

Homelessness will continue on this alarming upward trajectory due to insufficient affordable housing. Over a third of private renters require housing benefit: that’s 1.9 million people. However, just 4% of one- to three-bedroom properties would be affordable to people receiving this support – a steep decrease from the already low 12% the year prior. As a result, a stark portion of renters are struggling to secure a property within their budget. This problem is only worsening as we battle the cost of living crisis, and housing benefits have remained frozen since 2020; further, rents are ever-increasing – some areas rising by 21% in the past year.

A flawed system for many means people are left to seek solace in temporary housing or turn to the streets.

Detrimental attitudes compound the issue

15% of employers said if they hired homeless people, or those at risk of becoming homeless, they’d be worried about how to interact with them, while 13% would be fearful they may upset colleagues, and 40% would be concerned about their reliability.

"No one should be homeless in 2023” – Single Homeless Project

An alarming proportion of the population seem to value the needs of people with homes over those less fortunate: in a recent YouGov survey of over 1,700 people, a higher percentage of respondents thought their local government should prioritise maintaining roads over working to reduce homelessness.

A relentless cycle

For homeless people, or those at risk of becoming homeless, the options aren’t as straightforward as “just getting a job”. There are a number of challenges that come into play. For starters, employers’ attitudes and misconceptions can make it difficult to secure employment, with 40% of employers believing it’s illegal to hire a homeless person, and 4 out of 10 employers (42%) confessing that they’d try to terminate an employee’s contract if they became homeless.

Further barriers to employment include not having easy access to a mobile phone or laptop to make job applications, facing issues with providing references, and being unable to afford travel to interviews or purchase interview-appropriate clothing. For those living in supported accommodation – which is often more expensive than private renting due to the valuable services provided – they have the added stressor of losing their eligibility for housing benefit if they work more than minimal hours per week, often resulting in them rapidly falling into rent arrears.

What’s more, organisations often require employees to provide details of a fixed address – something that’s obviously more complicated for people without a home. If you can’t provide address details, you can’t get a job – it’s a vicious cycle.

Give someone a fresh start through a new job

Employers can take action to help the ever-growing number of homeless people secure employment. Providing attainable job opportunities can be a vital step towards breaking the “no home, no job” cycle. What’s more, it can provide your organisation with valuable and loyal employees; a charity that we collaborate with recently told us that homeless people who were given appropriate support throughout the recruitment process were found to be more resilient and adaptable employees who stayed in their roles longer.

Collaborating with charities such as EveryYouth and Crisis is an effective way to make sure vacancies within your company are seen by homeless people and those at risk of becoming homeless.

Hays are making an impact 

We’re collaborating with EveryYouth, a charity dedicated to ending youth homelessness, to level the playing field and prove that social mobility is possible for disadvantaged young people in the UK facing homelessness. Together we launched Flourish, a free pro-bono service to help disadvantaged young people enter employment. Key to this is our end-to-end employability and skills for work programme that matches young, in-need people with suitable job vacancies. We offer a career support programme whereby we coach young people to get them 'ready for work’, supporting them through the initial application process, and upon appointment, providing additional resources that enable them to flourish once in their new role.

The service will also help organisations adapt their recruitment and management processes to be more inclusive of those who have been unhoused, creating more routes for those who need help the most. Through this unique recruitment partnership, we’re committed to improving the social mobility of the most disadvantaged young people in the country and helping to end youth homelessness.

If you're interested in hearing how our Flourish employability service can benefit your organisation, please email jamie.houlders@hays.com and we’ll be in touch shortly.


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.

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