Learning about Homeless Employment

Facing into our ambition of designing a homeless employment solution, the HI Future team knew that understanding the business barriers around employing people who have experienced homelessness was fundamental to developing a service that would enable the most vulnerable people in society to have secure and stable futures.

Why?

Well, with so much great work already taking place in the public and third sector to ready and support people back into work, HI Future founder Lauren Coulman’s work in homelessness highlighted the strategic opportunity for businesses to contribute a scalable and sustainable solution to addressing rising homelessness in the U.K.

That, and addressing the cultural fears, strict HR processes and varying levels of personal support available to disadvantaged groups that were seemingly stopping these organisations from offering jobs.

So, with a keen eye on both the challenges and opportunities of employing people who have experienced homelessness, we kicked off Phase 1 – where we are co-creating our homeless employment solution with our cross-sector community all alongside people who have or are experiencing homelessness – with user research.

How?

Simply through asking questions, to understand the needs and mindsets of those people aiming to make use of the product or service being designed. For Noisy Cricket, this included the businesses we’re looking to enable as well as those who will benefit from its usage.

So over 4 weeks we interviewed and ran workshops with 30 people. We included the businesses open to employing impacted individuals, those people looking for work and the charities and government departments keen to see each person they support or coach back into work succeed. In the process, we learnt a lot.

What?

That expanding their definition of diversity and inclusion to include people with challenging backgrounds has the potential to be a huge boon to their business, as well as paying their own successes forward to the local community.

We also found that the co-workers most likely to work alongside those impacted are keen to support people with personal insight into homelessness, though are conscious they may not always be equipped to do so.

The leaders of the same organisations – including Balfour Beatty, Manchester Airports Group, Lloyds Bank and KPMG in Manchester – have a good understanding of the root causes of homelessness but that this doesn’t necessarily translate through the organisation.

These findings make sense of why those experiencing homelessness experienced stigma when it came to the interview process.

Negative perceptions around addiction, mental health and criminality has the potential to cloud judgment and shut down opportunities, and the 13 people we interviewed who had been in that position had all experienced

Yet, speaking to support workers and jobs coaches working in charities across the region, we found that the core issue was confidence on the part of the individual involved, and the need for understanding, flexibility and support in role.

So, what next?

We’ll be sharing these learnings, and the many more insights we gleaned from speaking to those organisations and individuals committed to creating more inclusive and supportive workplaces at an open business event at the end of March 2019.

Bringing together businesses from the construction & property, travel & hospitality and tech & media industries across Greater Manchester, we’ll also be educating those keen to get involved on the root causes of homelessness, the immediate opportunities available to employ people who have experienced homelessness and hear from the incredible people already working in this space.

Longer term, these insights will be used to bring together our HI Future community of businesses, charities and public sector teams to co-create the employment solution, but for now, come join us on Tuesday 26th March at The Federation in central Manchester, listen and learn!

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