The employment of people at risk of or experiencing homelessness provides the opportunity to change lives, while improving workplace culture and community outreach.
By collaborating with charitable organisations such as St Bart’s, companies can combat the negative social stigma and exclusion arising from homelessness.
The reality is, homelessness can happen to anyone.
As St Bart’s Chief Executive Officer Samantha Drury FAIM says, it does not discriminate.
“More than 9750 people experience homelessness every night in Western Australia,” she said, adding that it was often the result of trauma.
“The people we support at St Bart’s are no different to anyone else, but trauma may well have impacted their life at some point.
“Recognising and addressing trauma helps us to see homelessness not as a cause of problems but a result of something more real – more human."
“The simple answer for businesses is to understand trauma, to understand the people they employ and the support needed to ensure success.”
To collaborate with charitable organisations focusing on homelessness, businesses must have an open door and an open mind.
An open door allows for individuals to be employed by the company through collaboration, while an open mind accepts the employment of homeless individuals at the psychological and cultural level – accepting the humanity of the person and leaving behind any held stigmas or biases surrounding their circumstances.
At St Bart’s, the Reconnecting Lives Program (RLP) tailors support to the needs of the individual, recognising the personal traumas and challenges which have affected them.
“Our Reconnecting Lives Program focuses on an individual’s goals, which is fully funded from philanthropic and corporate donations,” Ms Drury said.
Businesses should be inspired by St Bart’s approach and look to actively become involved in reconnecting lives, as some organisations already have.
Leading by example
Within its mission to empower individuals who have experienced homelessness, St Bart’s has established significant partnerships with a number of organisations.
“St Bart’s takes a very collaborative approach to supporting people experiencing homelessness,” Ms Drury said.
“Every conversation is an opportunity, particularly when we are talking to, or working with the private sector.”
An example of this is The Big Issue, which has supported St Bart’s in creating opportunities for women experiencing homelessness.
“We are working with The Big Issue and operating a women’s service, which provides short-term accommodation for 28 women," Ms Drury said.
“Through The Big Issue, some of our female residents now have the opportunity for employment by packing magazines.”
The not-for-profit coffee business Change Please has also partnered with St Bart’s; training people who have experienced homelessness to be baristas.
“Two of our residents have been through Change Please and are working in the food and beverage sector, receiving RLP support and successfully sustaining their independent, secure and stable accommodation,” Ms Drury said.
A major corporate partner of St Bart’s has been Red Dog Mining & Civil, which has created opportunities for the homeless within the mining industry.
“The opportunities Red Dog provide are for people who are at a stage in their recovery journey where they are ready to step into a fly-in, fly-out role and take on the responsibilities and requirements which come with working on a mine site,” Ms Drury said.
“The process is set up to be fully supportive from the first steps, with Red Dog creating a very supportive onsite culture and the potential to secure long-term employment in the resources sector once training has been completed."
Importantly Red Dog Mining & Civil recognises the trauma and struggle homeless individuals experience, and provides the necessary support.
“The management team fully understands the complexity of homelessness, and the impact homelessness can have on individuals and the ripple effects across their social networks," Ms Drury said.
“Red Dog is very committed to the program and the opportunity they see to change the lives of the individual they are employing and the knock-on effects employment can have.”
Red Dog Mining & Civil serves as an example of employment not only changing lives but also improving workplace culture and the overall ethos of the business.
Through the execution of a successful collaborative approach to providing employment opportunities for people experiencing homelessness, the positive social and economic benefits are countless.
“One of the significant benefits of creating employment opportunities for people in our service is the reunification of families, where children have either been taken into care or are being cared for by a family member,” Ms Drury said, adding that providing employment also creates economic stability, improves mental health, develops skills, reduces the risk of recidivism and works towards breaking stereotypes surrounding homelessness.
Through collaborating with organisations such as St Bart’s, businesses can make significant strides towards interrupting the harmful cycle between homelessness and unemployment, creating opportunities, improving morale and changing lives along the way.