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Supports crucial for working homeless

Wednesday, 2nd October, 2019 4:36pm

There’s still a prejudice against homeless people in society, the director of Cork Simon said this week at the launch of a study about the challenges faced by homeless people while working.

As part of Simon Week 2019, Cork Simon Community published part one of its longitudinal A Working Life research series on Tuesday which tracks the lives of 18 people over 25 months from the time they moved into employment with support from Cork Simon’s employment and training team.

All 18 research participants had experienced or were at risk of homelessness at the time they commenced employment in 2017; over half were currently homeless and staying in emergency accommodation.

Dermot Kavanagh, Director of Cork Simon, said: “The employers that work with our employment and training programme have been enlightened but because there’s such a prejudice in general against homeless people in society, I am sure it is reflected in the employer too.

“Prejudice is broken down by knowledge and information. The majority of people who took part in this study had skills and jobs before and they were very motivated to work. Hopefully coverage of this study will help to break down these prejudices.”

The Working Life research series highlights the equal importance of housing and tailored one-to-one supports for people exiting homelessness or preventing them from being pushed into homelessness. Supporting people back to employment and supporting them to sustain their employment are just some of those tailored supports.

A key finding of the study is the need for integrated supports for people with experience of homelessness as they start, or in most cases, return to work. As they commenced their employment, 33 per cent of participants were long-term unemployed, 39 per cent were in early recovery, 56 per cent were staying in emergency accommodation and 89 per cent had experienced homelessness in the previous two years.

Sophie Johnston, author of the report, said it was clear from interviews with the 18 participants that the sheer number of challenges they faced starting work were significant.

She said: “Starting a new job can be a challenging time for many people. What made the early days in work so challenging for this group of people was the place of severe disadvantage from which they were starting, the number of challenges they faced and how these challenges influenced and built upon one another.”

The main challenges participants faced as they commenced their employment were:

• Coping with the noise and disruptive nature of staying in emergency accommodation

• The toll on the body of physically demanding work often coupled with a physical commute

• Dealing with financial issues arising from factors such as emergency tax, delays, errors and confusion with payments, and budgeting difficulties.

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