First, Understanding Homelessness

We’re three months into addressing the business barriers to homelessness and employment, and the thing we’ve learnt most quickly? That it’s difficult to get people to open their mind to it.

Considering Homeless Employment

Some of that is wholly understandable. Most people equate homelessness with rough sleeping so for many, the idea of those most vulnerable individuals – we see on our city streets day-to-day – holding down or successfully delivering a steady job is unimaginable.

It’s only when you understand that people experiencing street homelessness account for less than 2% of the homeless population, do you start to wake up to the potential. Yet, there’s something more going on.

Part of the challenge is that people place value judgements on those individuals too. Despite the oft-repeated trope that no-one is more than a few paychecks away from losing their home, the reality is that its hardship, trauma and a lack of support network that is most likely to lead to homelessness.

Personal Challenges

Yet, most people don’t see the relationship breakdowns and grief, the domestic violence and childhood abuse, or the homophobic families that cause people to leave their homes. Time in care institutions, the armed forces or the prison system, that leave people adrift.

All these things, combined with the challenges that mental health issues or addictive substances can lead to homelessness, and they aren’t experienced by the majority of the population. Which explains why people can’t understand those at risk and their reduced capacity to help themselves.

For some, this can translate into negative perceptions, about the type of person those individuals are, and such stigmas stick, especially when it comes to examining their potential within the workforce. Resultantly, people are shut out of opportunities to get their lives back on track.

Systemic Causes

Which is a little perverse, when homelessness and its meteoric rise in the UK over the last decade has been predominantly caused by the system. Whilst certain people will always be vulnerable to becoming homeless, it takes certain conditions to enable that to happen.

Conditions like Great Britain’s current housing crisis. A lack of affordable housing combined with a 1.15 million long waiting list for social housing means there is nowhere for people to go.

The subsequent impact on the private rented sector means hose with limited means are unable to afford a home, and the lack of regulation around private landlords means all renters can be evicted at short notice with limited right to recourse, and worse, no roof.

Whilst housing is the foundation stone of homelessness, policy and economy-led choices have left vulnerable people to operate within a shaky structure. Over 1.8 million people on zero hours contracts and 6.2 million being paid less than a living wage leaves people struggling to make ends meet.

For those on welfare, the picture is equally problematic. Over £7 billion in housing benefits cuts, the arrears generated as a result of the bedroom tax and initial issues experienced in the rollout of universal credit – people not receiving benefits for between 5-6 weeks – left people short.

Here, the local authority would usually step in, but with over 8000 hostel closures across the UK and budgets halved since 2010 impacting housing, homelessness and adult care services which support those with multiple and complex needs. It’s a dire situation.

Cultural Contributions

For already vulnerable people, being stuck within (or on the fringes of the system), with limited state support, little in the way of networks and (if they weren’t experienced already) exacerbated issues surrounding mental health, addiction and often physical health, people can deteriorate pretty quickly.

People who have previously held jobs. People who have their own aspirations and gifts to offer the world, and simply fell through a crack in the system and got trapped there. We know that 56% of people spend 5 or more years out of work, even though 88% are willing to work and live independently.

It why we’re working with our HI Future community to foster better understanding of homelessness, and through our research, the unique issues that people experience and the barriers businesses will need to address in helping those in need create secure and stable futures for themselves.

Understanding the issue is the first step, but understanding our own perceptions, biases and the stigmas we project onto others is just as important. We want to work with the most progressive, open-minded and proactive business to get involved.


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Recruiting Groundwork

Veetia Knight EDITAs one of our partner charities, Groundwork in Greater Manchester has brought some much-needed insight to our HI Future user research, and challenged our thinking on how trauma and vulnerability can impact the settling in period at work. We spoke to Venetia Knight who heads up the charity’s employment initiatives across the region… 

Tell us about you…

I am the Head of Employment and Enterprise at Groundwork in Greater Manchester – a not-for-profit organisation that delivers a wide range of services to create a sustainable future for people, places and businesses in Greater Manchester. In my spare time, I am a primary school Chair of Governors and secretary for my local allotment society. I have spent my whole career at Groundwork working on many different programmes and services – from physical landscape improvements to environmental education and crime prevention initiatives. My real passion is about achieving better social justice for marginalised groups and ensuring that all children get the best chance in life.

Why HI Future for you and for Groundwork?

My team deliver services coaching, developing and training unemployed people to enable them to move into work and build new careers. We also run social trading businesses which create transitional employment for people with criminal convictions, including the catering business HMPasties run by Lee Wakeham. Our programmes are led by people with shared lived experience who have built successful working lives, they specialise in working with people with criminal convictions, care leavers, people that have served in the armed forces and young people aged 18-25. Although we are not a specialist charity working with homeless people, homelessness is a problem affecting some of our service users and it is becoming more prevalent. Through our social enterprises, we also have particular insight as an employer of people that have experienced homelessness, about the practical challenges faced and also what works.

What’re the challenges around homeless employment?

Homelessness affects a lot more people than the most visible people that we see sleeping rough in the City Centre and in towns across Greater Manchester. Some of our service users live in temporary or unstable accommodation or are sofa surfing with a network of friends, family and associates – this causes anxiety and uncertainty – and can make people dependent on people they might really be better avoiding, all of which makes it difficult for people to get into the settled routines you need to hold down full-time employment. Not having a fixed address can cause administrative challenges when trying to get work such as organising ID, getting hold of previous qualifications and certificates, opening a bank account, providing checkable address history or being easily contactable by employers to arrange interviews. People may also have lost their essential tools of the trade by constantly moving about.

For some people that have experienced homelessness, there can be other person-specific challenges or barriers that make it harder to secure and sustain employment, which may have originally led to them becoming homeless in the first place. Childhood trauma, family and relationship breakdowns, problems with drugs and alcohol, involvement with the criminal justice system or debts. These issues can affect mental wellbeing and confidence so people require additional support and coaching to move into and sustain work in the long term. Also, just being out of work for a long time can mean that people’s skills and qualifications are out of date, as well as understanding of current employer needs and getting through recruitment processes successfully.

What’re the opportunities with the HI Future project?

Building understanding by more employers of the issues faced by people and how this relates to securing and sustaining work in the long term, coupled with creating proven models of in-work support, provides the opportunity for better outcomes for more people. I think it is important to remember that just getting a job is not always job done. It can take a bit longer to resolve some problems for some people whilst in those first few months of work.

We know that financial capability skills and managing debt are also problems that a lot of people will face, including when they are in work. Building this support into the model can help people in the long term.

What’s the potential impact for Groundwork and the third sector?

Groundwork, and other third-sector organisations, are skilled at engaging and developing people to get them ready for work. We already work with some great employers, particularly SME’s, who take on people from our programmes and are realistic that there can be bumps along the way as people settle into a normal working life and start to consistently perform well at work. Connecting with more employers, understanding their needs and how we as providers can support them can only be a good thing so we can match people into work at the time when they need it.

Collaboration, which raises awareness of the work of social enterprises and the benefits of ‘buying social’ as a choice to contribute to achieving multiple benefits including reducing unemployment of vulnerable groups, is also important to us.

Who else should be involved?

Any employer who has recruitment needs and is open to being a bit more flexible in recruiting and settling people into their business and is happy collaborating with providers such as Groundwork to find the right people for them.

Find out more about the work of Groundwork here.

Interviewing Danny Collins

Danny Collins EDIT.jpgAs we come to the end of the first stage of HI Future’s user research into the business barriers to employing people who have experienced homelessness, and head into sharing the insights we’ve gathered with our community of businesses, charities and public sector teams, we couldn’t think of anyone better to speak to than Danny Collins, tour guide and storyteller extraordinaire at Invisible Cities Manchester.

Having experienced homelessness personally, with support from the Booth Centre, Danny now shares his story and knowledge of our home city on his alternative tour of Manchester. A project exclusively employing those impacted by homelessness, the charity is a great example of the potential of employment, and an incredible way to understand the impact homelessness can have both personally and societally.


Uhm, about me. I am a person who was homeless on the streets of Manchester for four and a half years. My initial involvement with volunteering and committee work through the Manchester Homeless Partnership means I now work closely with people and other homeless organisations to help people get back into employment.


People ask me why I do a lot of the volunteering or what I get out of it… I just say it’s not what I get out of it but instead what I can put back into it.


There was excellent mentor support through the Booth Centre. The mentors have been through those experiences, they understand you and were a great help to me. They helped me move on to becoming a mentor myself. Through the Booth Centre, and experience with Walking with the Wounded and the Veteran’s Associations, plus contributing to Manchester Street Poem with Manchester International Festival and now through my job at Invisible Cities, it all helped me rebuild myself and my self-esteem. With the tour guiding I do now for Invisible Cities Manchester, I have learnt to do a lot more public speaking and I get a lot of what I want to achieve through that.


It was very daunting to start off with, I must admit. Yet, it wasn’t a pushed kinda thing. I was given time to gain my confidence and build myself up. It was a slow process but a good one.

What’s needed from an employer in making working a great experience for someone who has experienced homelessness?

Understanding. Understanding of people who have experienced homelessness and understanding that not every person who has been homeless has problems.

To learn more about Invisible Cities Manchester and their tours led by people have been impacted by homelessness, check out their website here.




Why We Need To Talk About More Than Rough Sleeping…

When it comes to addressing homelessness, it’s natural that what you see as the problem is what you believe is the problem. In the past decade, the issue of people finding themselves without a home, income and support system has become dire, and the situation on our city streets makes it evident.

In the centre of Manchester, Brighton and parts of London, its hard to walk two streets without happening upon an individual, sleeping in a doorway or begging for food or spare change. It’s gut-wrenching, to see people at their most vulnerable, and understandably, it inspires much-needed action.

Yet, most people don’t understand that rough sleeping is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to homelessness. As of December 2018, Shelter, released statistics that there are now over 320,000 people across the U.K. experiencing homelessness, of which 4,677 are estimated to be sleeping rough. That’s less than 2% of the population of people experiencing the issue.

Shelter Iceberg
Shelter, 2018

Which means, we have a much bigger issue on our hands. People staying in hostels, B&Bs, on friend’s sofas or in sheltered accommodation, which we don’t get to see, but due to the insecure, temporary and varying quality of accommodation provided, means people are experiencing homelessness, whether it looks like what we expect it to or not.

This also presents a challenge. With men, women, families and working people all struggling to make ends meet, that’s a lot of people in need of housing and support. Yet, with a 1.15m long social housing waiting list and a lack of affordable homes nationwide, plus local authority budget cuts across the country meaning mental health, addiction and homelessness support is challenged, how?

With rough sleeping representing the most acute need – and costing the public purse an average of £20,000 a year to support – finding housing becomes imperative. In Greater Manchester in particular, significant efforts are going into programmes like the social impact bond, where private sector money is invested by the public sector to secure accommodation and support, but only for the most entrenched rough sleepers.

Housing First EDIT

Housing First – an internationally renowned programme for turning around the lives of people with multiple and complex needs – is also being piloted in Manchester this year. 400 homes are being made available in partnership with Great Places Housing Group, with the wraparound support needed to turn lives around.

Yet, with thousands of people in the region – at a minimum surpassing 5,500 across the region according to Greater Manchester Together – experiencing homelessness, and around 400 of those rough sleepers, how to help the vast majority of people in this situation?

People with less complex challenges but no less a need to find a home, financial security and a support network to get by. People still in need of housing, adult care services and money to take care of themselves month-to-month.

With so much pressure on housing and adult care services within our cities, balancing the immediate needs of rough sleepers – food for the next day and a bed for the night – with those looking to live independent and fulfilling lives is essential, and not just to relieve the system that supports them.

Stepping Up EDIT.jpg

Whilst it makes sense that helping those readiest to support themselves will increase capacity elsewhere, HI Future’s work to address barriers to employing people experiencing homelessness has shown how important self-determination and dignity is in the process too.

Interviewing people who have experienced homelessness and are looking for work, being able to find work which builds on previously held skills, that brings more independence and allows people to re-establish their identity is essential, and it’s here where businesses can have the most significant impact.

Providing jobs is as essential as providing food, and a strategic contribution to build on the tactical work needed to keep those at the sharp end of the homelessness spectrum going day to day. Yet, with so many people equating homelessness with rough sleeping, we’re learning its hard for decision-makers to see how someone struggling could be successfully employed.

User Research EDIT

Its why we’ve been getting under the skin of needs AND mindsets of directors and HR leads, line managers and co-workers, in addition to learning about the experiences of those experiencing homelessness who are trying to get back into work. Understanding is the first step, in designing, building and piloting a homeless employment solution which works for everyone.

Its why we’ve built a community, bringing public sectors teams from the DWP, charity experts from Business in the Community and Groundwork, and most essentially businesses, like Manchester Airports Groups and Balfour Beatty together with people impacted by the issue to co-create a solution, and we’re halfway there.

Yet, the more the merrier. We’re looking for progressive businesses, willing and able to change their mindsets and approach social impact in a strategic, collaborative and open-minded way to join our growing HI Future community and help us design, build and trial the solution.


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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.


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.


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.


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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Recruiting Manchester Airports Group

As one of our runway sponsors, Manchester Airports Group (MAG) has been instrumental in getting the HI Future off the ground, as it were. We spoke with MAG-O – the airport’s digital services division – HR Director, Kelly Singleton, to understand why HI Future and its approach inspired the business to get involved…. 

Tell us about you?

Headshot Colour Cropped for Profiles (EDIT).jpg

I am HR Director for Airport Services at Manchester Airports Group. It is a global business and includes our in-house digital agency, MAG-O which we created 2 years ago. I have worked in the HR profession for 16 years across various industries from retail to healthcare to tech and most recently aviation. Most of my roles have been global which has provided me with incredibly rich learning opportunities into human beings, culture and how people can truly collaborate to achieve great things. I guess I work in HR because I am passionate about helping people and businesses to succeed. I truly believe that the best way for businesses to succeed is through its people.

Why HI Future for you and for MAG?

I see the problem our great city is facing with homelessness and I can also see that the problem is steadily increasing. There are so many amazing agencies and charities out there doing incredible things to help, but I have always been keen to see a sustainable model which removes barriers and provides employment opportunities so that people can live independently. I strongly believe that this can also be great for businesses in the region.

What’re the challenges around homeless employment?

At an airport, as you would probably expect, security is the prime concern. Pre-employment screening is an incredibly robust process for any roles which operate airside (this is after the security point in terminals). Landside security (anything that is before the security gates) is also pretty robust, and so the initial concern for the leadership team was the barriers that this process would present. For example, where people may have had gaps in employment or permanent address this can pose a great challenge in achieving clearance for employment.

The standards set are industry-wide and so not necessarily within the control of the airport itself. However, we are working really closely with our recruitment and vetting team to understand the barriers and work on solutions. Careful mapping of candidates to roles is a quick win and the rest we can work on over time. The team is really keen to make a difference. We have also been able to help in other ways, such as supporting the programme implementation, providing educational opportunities through our academy, and providing work placements. So far so good!

What’re the opportunities with the HI Future project?

They are endless. I think linking employers, agencies and candidates is a huge step forward and any platform capability which makes this process simple to engage with will be great. Working with a wide selection of stakeholders enables us to really understand the root cause and develop solutions collectively. It is very powerful!

What’s the potential impact for MAG and your industry?

It is significant. Diversity is a key component of our strategy and attracting people into our business from different backgrounds, who have different ways of working and thinking is a key draw. We also struggle like most businesses to recruit to the volume of roles we have each year and so this is widening the market for us.

Who else should be involved?

Who should not be involved? I think if the airport can get on board then any employer in Manchester can and I would strongly urge them to do so.

To find out more about MAG-O, check here.

Interviewing Mooch Ashley

Mooch Ashley EDITWe’ve taken a little time out of HI Future’s pacey schedule to talk to Keith Ashley – AKA Mooch – who’s personal insight into homelessness and experience working in the sector is bringing an invaluable take on the work we’re doing to create secure and stable futures for people who have experienced homelessness and are ready for work.

Ensuring that the voice of those people impacted by the issue is central to the homeless employment solution we’re designing with businesses, charities and public sector departments, Mooch’s own experiences in moving back into employment brings a much-needed perspective on how we can support people back into work.

Tell us about you, your work and interest in homeless employment.

I was born in 1956 – 10 years after the end of World War II – and was brought up in the slums of Manchester. I remember those early years clearly, but for me and my mates, they didn’t feel like slums. They were much more fun! No one had very much, but what we had we shared. It was very close-knit, no matter what part of Greater Manchester you visited. I had a kind of happy childhood, and we never really went short.

My interests are many and varied. They weren’t always on the right side of the law, but hey, living on the edge could be fun and kept me on my toes. What I’ve always found interesting is people, though. There’s nothing better than speaking to our older generation about their lifetime, and I also love to read. It’s somewhere I can go to escape.

When it comes to my job – administering funds from the Big Change to people looking to take their next step in their journey out of homelessness – not only is it very rewarding, but it’s also really interesting. I meet people from all walks of life, and it enables me to find my way to what’s important to me.

In addition to the people who are struggling, I work with over 70 support workers and the CEOs of over 30 charities on a daily basis, so every day brings a new conversation.

What encouraged your decision to go back to work?

I’m just your typical Manchester kid… always willing to help and always up for a nobble. The life I led didn’t really give me any encouragement to work for anybody, only myself.

Personally, I was supported back into work by the people behind the Manchester Homelessness Partnership. They encouraged me to make a difference and to help our homeless, and I soon realized that people listened to me, and the more they listened, the more I felt inspired to help.

That said, I think I had enough about me to be directed into something more than just a job. In reality, the Big Change job chose me and slowly helped me realize that I could really make a difference to some of the most vulnerable in our society. As a result, I’ve found it really easy to encourage others to find a journey they’re happy with too.

What support was available in getting back into work?

I’ve had so many people supporting me and a whole lot of people inspiring me. I don’t always know I’m being supported, as it’s not something I needed for over 50 years, but over the last four years since leaving prison, when I look back, I think the people who supported me didn’t do it for any other reason but to help and not for anything in return.

In particular, Eleanor Watts from the Big Change was a huge help. She backed me when I said I was ready to start working. At that point, I was already doing voluntary work, so I had people around me who could support me back into work. I was helped when I needed an up to date CV at the Mustard Tree, and there was a network at my local library, where I found others in a similar situation as myself.

How were you feeling when you started your new job?

When it came to starting at Big Change, I was nervous. My anxiety was beginning to build and my stomach was turning over and over, but I also felt excitement in the run up to my first day so together, it balanced things out.

All and all, it’s been interesting and fun. I’ve been in the role for over a year now, and I’ve never really been looking for support. I just got on with it because that’s how I was brought up. But – and it’s a big but – I realize not everyone wants something in return for their help. It’s taken me 50 years to realise it. I reach out for help now, and it’s always there.

I’m not a bad fella. It just took a while to accept it that’s all.

To find out more about Big Change Manchester and their innovative alternative giving fund, check out their website here. 

How to Help with Homeless Employment

With rising numbers of homelessness across the U.K. – the vast majority of those hidden from sight in hostels, temporary accommodation such as B&B’s or couch surfing – thinking of the long-term prospects, as much as the immediate needing of support and housing, is essential.

Handshake EDIT

That goes for those people struggling and the stretched charities and public sector teams addressing the increase in demand for services that comes with a 4% surge in homelessness since 2017 alone, and local government and funding budget cuts, meaning supporting those most in need has become increasingly challenging.

That’s why helping people achieve stability is so essential. Yet, with so many people seeing (and believing) rough sleeping as the only experience of homelessness, it can be hard to understand how some of the most vulnerable individuals we see on our streets might be able to maintain a job, bringing an income, the ability to afford a home and a community that so many in this position need.

With rough sleepers estimated to account for less than 2% the country’s homeless population, and 88% of those who have experienced homelessness willing to work according to  Crisis, there is more potential and opportunity than initially meets the eye, and the possibility of a secure and stable future within all our collective grasp.

With the HI Future project, our community of businesses, homeless charities and public sector teams will be working with those people impacted to co-create a homeless employment solution that will remove business barriers to offering opportunities and working with those organisations already helping people get ready for work.

For those looking to have a direct impact sooner rather than later – we’ll be researching, mapping and building the HI Future solution throughout 2019 – here are some of the amazing initiatives across Greater Manchester that you as a business can support now.

Jobs Clubs

Many homeless charities run jobs clubs, with CV writing sessions, interview technique practise and support applying for jobs are all available for those willing and able to re-enter the jobs market. Our partner organisation, Mustard Tree, runs two sessions weekly in Ancoats, Manchester, on Tuesday and Friday from 10am to 12pm.

The Booth Centre in Cheetham Hill too supports people looking to access training and additional qualifications, and like One Manchester – a local housing association – also arranges volunteering or work placements for people in need of experience before placing a person with personal insight into a full-time role.

Get Involved: Volunteer to support with CV building and interview training or hold “meet the employer” days and provide work placement opportunities with your local charity.

Ready to Work

Beyond the practical needs, people often need more personal support to ready themselves for work. Self-esteem, motivational skills and expected workplace behaviours, especially for those people for whom experiencing homelessness may have exacerbated personal challenges, is why programmes like Business in the Community’s (BITC) Ready for Work programme is vital.

“Ready for work” however, can be seen as a subjective assessment, as there are broader needs that are essential, for both the individuals and employers looking to sustain work opportunities. Having a bank account is a typical stumbling block, which our supporter organisation Lloyds Bank are addressing in Greater Manchester,  as is the need for a secure and stable home, which the Job Centre recognises as it supports people on benefits as they search for work.

Get Involved: Signing up or sponsoring BITC’s Ready for Work programme is one way of supporting people experiencing homelessness back into work, as is partnering with the DWP on work trials, traineeships or apprenticeships.

Homeless Sector Roles

Experience prior to entering the work place is often essential to help people who have experienced homelessness gain the confidence, routines and support network needed to secure and sustain long-term employment, and the third sector – like our partner organisation Groundwork in Greater Manchester – is particularly adept at creating opportunities.

Launching social enterprises like HM Pasties and Blue Sky North, Groundwork provides jobs for ex-offenders, and for organisations like Shelter, GROW trainees are employed and trained whilst helping develop services for others who have experienced homelessness Manchester.

Get Involved: Hiring a GROW trainee, or making use of the services that enterprises like HM Pasties provides is a great way to offer support, and ensure those gaining confidence and experience continue to develop in their chosen employment paths.

If you’re game to support our cross-sector, collaborative solution to homeless employment, you can always support the HI Future community too.

Get In Touch

Our Journey So Far

HI Future – the HI standing for homeless inclusive – came into being long before we created the community that lives and breathes it now, though its collaborative way of working has been fundamental to its existence since day dot… and, it’s our cross-sector community, co-producing an employment solution with those people impacted by homelessness is what will see it through to success.

journey edit

It wasn’t always this way, though. Two years ago, not long after I launched Noisy Cricket, I started working on homelessness. With people I love personally impacted by the issue and seeing how the rise in homelessness was impacting a human I’d come to care for who slept rough on the same street I lived in central Manchester, how could I not?

A year later, and I’d been taken in by the Manchester Homelessness Partnership (MHP). An inspiring collective of public and third sector organisations, Viv Slack of Street Support, Jez Green at The Mustard Tree and Beth Knowles of GMCA had all shown me the power of co-production – working with not for those impacted by an issue – and a core principle of Noisy Cricket’s work was born.

Throughout 2017, I was able to bring businesses to the work the MHP were doing. Using Noisy Cricket’s root cause research, we were able to educate 250 businesses on the “why” of rising homelessness and channel them into an MHP support group to take action. Yet, with the power, platform and resources available to so many businesses, I suspected there was bigger potential at play.

high five editCue Mooch and Woody. Bringing their own experiences of homelessness and the sector to the work we were doing at the business support group – now part of a much bigger programme run by the inimitable Dee Lowry – I was told in no uncertain terms that we needed jobs. A root cause, strategic and sustainable response to an issue that impacts the whole city and every person in it. Got it!

Yet, with numerous brilliant initiatives across the UK readying people experiencing homelessness for work, where were the businesses? Despite the Booth Centre’s weekly jobs clubs, Business in The Community’s (BITC) ready for work programme and the programmes and platforms developed by Manchester City Council ready for the regional skills gaps in tech, construction and hospitality, where were the jobs?

A chance encounter with Tash Willcocks of Hyper Island presented an exciting opportunity to get under the skin of the issue. With a growing body of insight on the issues underpinning the business barriers to employing people who have experienced homelessness, Noisy Cricket put a brief, to the 30 plus bright, proactive and creative students at their Manchester MA programme, and let the innovation roll.

raised hand editThree months later, with the support of BITC and Pret a Manger – an organisation running their own homeless-focused employment programme – Woody, Mooch and I worked with the student to support the development of eight solutions, addressing the systemic, cultural and personal challenges inherent in employing people with personal insight into homelessness.

With so many potential options, we went back to the business community, and with feedback from the Co-Op, KPMG and Manchester Airports Group (MAG), narrowed our options down to two key solutions. One, a matchmaking solution, helping businesses find those individuals willing and able to work. The second, a support system, to add on to the great work being done up front by the public and third sector.

Yet, indirect feedback came our way too. Assumptions regarding the type of work people who have experienced homelessness would be suitable to do. Fears surrounding mental health, addiction and criminality. Concerns around cultural fit, another perception which we knew needed to be challenged if we were ever to encourage businesses to open their doors and offer up opportunities.

open hand editNow, to make it happen. We knew if HI Future, were ever to succeed, it would be the community we create created around it that would be the deciding factor. Taking our solution out to the progressive, pro-active and committed businesses, charities and public sector departments across Greater Manchester, it became clear the potential HI Future had to create the systemic and cultural shift needed.

As 2018 closed out, we were delighted to welcome Manchester Airports Group and Balfour Beatty on board as runaway sponsors, providing the funding necessary to kick start the user research and education sessions needed to understand the challenges and opportunities inherent in employing people who have experienced homelessness.

To Sophie Stephens and Kelly Singleton, thank you, for passionately championing such a new and exciting approach. 

Throughout 2019, as we bring on board new sponsors, and with the commitment of supporter organisations of the like of KPMG and Lloyds Bank, we’ll bring together directors, HR professionals and line managers to work directly with people who have personal insight into homelessness, to co-create the solution we need to shift attitudes and test the platform making recruitment as simple as possible.

To Rebekah Ingham, Alex Roche and Jonathon Summerlin, so much gratitude, and to James Hargraves and Simon Chapman, for all making waves within your organisations!

open doorThe expertise of the DWP and our local partner organisations – the Mustard Tree, Groundwork in Greater Manchester and The Growth Company – which already work, on the ground, with impacted people to ready each-and-every individual for work will be essential too. There’ll be a lot to learn, but working as an open, collaborative and caring community bring better insights and a brilliant outcome.

To Nina Cioffi, Chris Hulse, Chris Gopal, Venetia Knight, Aileen Stirman, Ellie Jess and Naomi Ilagoswa, a huge thank you for the brilliant work you already do, and the support you’re lending to the HI Future project!

It’s an exciting year ahead of us, and with the talented team we’ve now assembled around Noisy Cricket to research, educate, design and build the solution you tell us is needed, we’re aiming for a later 2019 launch, to pilot across Greater Manchester in 2020, and roll out across the UK thereafter.

We can’t do it alone though! We’re still on the lookout for sponsor organisations, and need all the help we can get – from the tech, retail, and hospitality industries in particular – to make sure we launch a solution which provides opportunities, choice and acceptance, all to help us achieve our vision of creating secure and stable futures for all.

Get in touch!

Much love,

Lauren x