Why the homeless can’t get a job

One of the first things I did in my last role (as HR and Business Strategy Manager at a social housing company) was to attend a conference on homelessness. Living and working in a fairly rural area meant that this was an issue I was aware of, but wasn’t faced with on a daily basis (in fact far less often than that). Despite this lack of real-life experience, I’ve always believed it was a worthy cause. I was inspired to write a blog following the event on what I believed HR could do to help the homeless. 

The plush hotel where the homelessness conference was held is right opposite the train station. Now on my commute to my new role in the city I walk past it twice a day. The remainder of my walk is punctuated by the homeless begging at their regular posts. Despite wanting to help I often feel paralysed by the scale of the problem. I try to give a smile and a nod, otherwise I put my head down like everyone else and try to make my train on time. 

I’ve witnessed real kindness towards their plight. A man convincing his girlfriend to go back and give a five pound note to a man begging in the subway. An elderly lady reaching inside her bag for a donation, after which the homeless guy told her it was his birthday. A few weeks ago it was me reaching in my pocket for a bit of change to throw into a proffered cup. I don’t know why that day was different but I was happy and had a few coins to hand. However my good deed quickly turned sour when, as I bent down to hand over roughly 40 pence, a passer by warned me not to part with my hard-earned cash. “They have more money than us!” she laughed, adding as if to somehow emphasise her point, “I work at the job centre”. As I looked down at the poor guy huddled in his grey sleeping bag he quietly said “thanks for stopping”. Feeling shocked, I carried on my way. 

There have been numerous stories in the press recently about “fake” homeless people begging because it pays better than work, or even to supplement their existing income. One journalist tried this for himself, showing that those who appeared to have little themselves seemed more willing to help the apparently homeless (all proceeds were donated to a homeless charity). However, I do not believe this is widespread, and I do not wish to start to question whether the benefactor of my 40 pence doesn’t take shelter when it’s raining because a sorry looking wet tramp earns more than a dry one. 

What I would really like to question is why a government employee has such disdain for her apparent client group, and more importantly why has she not done what she is supposed to and enabled this man to earn a living? Surely anyone with a decent job in need of some extra cash would rather monitor their Just Giving page from home with a cup of tea than sit on a frozen pavement. I do not deny that she has a tough job, given an ever diminishing view of what talent looks like and any kind of gap in a CV being its passport to the recycling bin. That’s not even taking account of the taint that any kind of criminal conviction (even minor and well spent) will leave, despite any kind of equality legislation in place. A UK labour market which has little demand for low skilled jobs doesn’t help either. Yet her attitude was completely unacceptable.

What was emphasised by the homelessness conference was that what is needed is clearly a home, along with a job to support it. The difficulty is finding a role from an inferior position which is secure and will pay enough to cover the bills, bearing in mind that the homeless often have nobody to fall back on, being the reason for their predicament in the first place. The majority of people on the streets deserve sympathy and help, whatever their situation. If you don’t want to “spare some change” then fine, but don’t persecute those who do. 

(Photo is from the art project by Kenji Nakayama and Christopher Hope, signs for the homeless

Have you got the skills? #TagTeamBlog2

Here it is folks, the second Tag Team/Co-blog from myself and my “spiritual partner in HR”, the one and only Mr Perry Timms (@PerryTimms). This time we’re discussing skills and to resolve the UK conundrum of skills being viewed as a social and economic panacea (a point raised by Keep & Mayhew back in 2010). Continue reading “Have you got the skills? #TagTeamBlog2”

Job Loss: Wishing you were somehow here again

“Too many years fighting back tears
Why can’t the past just die?
Wishing you were somehow here again
Knowing we must say, “Goodbye”
Try to forgive, teach me to live
Give me the strength to try
No more memories, no more silent tears
No more gazing across the wasted years” Continue reading “Job Loss: Wishing you were somehow here again”

Who started the War for Talent?

I’m not the first to decry the use of the phrase “War for Talent” (see for example this blog by Workable). While I’m sure nobody wishes to downplay the true horror and suffering that is war through the use of such a metaphor, it is rather an apt one for the current recruitment market. I’m referring not only to the blatant mistreatment of undervalued candidates, but the lengths that the “top” organisations will go to in meeting their objectives of hiring only the best talent. Continue reading “Who started the War for Talent?”

TagTeamBlog #1 Performance Management

Blogging this week has been exactly like buses (one doesn’t come along for ages and then there’s two at once). But when the awesome energy that is one Perry Timms AKA @PerryTimms (adjusteddevelopment.wordpress.com) asked me to take part in a new blogging experiment, how could I resist? It’s the new idea I hinted at last year in my blog White Noise. Continue reading “TagTeamBlog #1 Performance Management”

The Liminal Period

Well The New Year is finally here, the much lauded but perpetual disappointment it always is. The two-day hangover has dissipated with nothing to show for it but a bunch of half-hearted promises. Everyone’s thoroughly back in to the swing of things and Christmas is a distant dream. The prospect of a bright, fresh new start has been thoroughly dampened (quite literally) by the British weather. It hasn’t stopped raining since last year. Continue reading “The Liminal Period”

White Noise

Noise exhausts me. Particularly background noise. I have a husband who listens to the radio and television at the same time. I have a house full of children who enjoy the hellish din soft play centres. I have to overhear all the problems of my fellow travellers during my twice-daily commute. At times I’ve sat at my desk my my fingers in my ears wishing more people appreciated silence. Continue reading “White Noise”