A few years ago, Amazon hired homeless workers through a local YMCA in Washington state, and the program did not go over very well. However, other organizations like P.S. Kitchen in New York City and the Parks and Recreation Department in Boise are excelling after hiring homeless workers—which goes to show that hiring homeless workers can be a great idea if you do it right.
Continue reading to learn more about why you should consider hiring homeless workers and best practices for doing it.
Benefits of Hiring Homeless Workers
Here are some important benefits you might experience when you hire homeless workers:
- Your organization will become more invested in its local community and will be able to give back in a meaningful way.
- Your leadership will feel more personally invested in your organization and the work it’s accomplishing on a larger, as well as local, scale.
- Staff and leadership that are more invested become more productive. And having more help and staff when they’re needed also increases productivity levels and the likelihood that you’ll reach sales and revenue goals.
- When you work with local shelters and nonprofit organizations that work with the homeless, you build positive and lasting partnerships with reputable local organizations that will come to you for a variety of different needs.
- If you follow best practices when hiring and developing homeless workers, you will develop a staff of dedicated and motivated workers who will stay with your organization long term.
- Tax breaks may be available to your organization if it hires homeless workers, depending on its locations and other parameters.
Best Practices for Hiring Homeless Workers
Before you release job announcements or start actively recruiting homeless workers, it’s important to understand the basics of homelessness and that not everyone is homeless for the same reasons.
Understand Homelessness, and Avoid Stereotypes
According to Statistic Brain, 44% of homeless individuals have actually worked within the past month and 25% are currently employed. So, homelessness is not directly caused by refusal to work or laziness. And while 66% of the homeless have issues with drugs, alcohol, and mental illness, there are many other causes of homelessness, such as domestic violence, extreme poverty, and inadequate access to food and medical care. Essentially, when hiring homeless workers, avoid succumbing to stereotypes that they are lazy, won’t show up for work on time, won’t be able to complete routine tasks or excel at their jobs, that they will always show up intoxicated, and so on.
Partner and Work with Local Entities
When hiring homeless workers, work with local shelters, soup kitchens, and nonprofits that work with homeless individuals already so you can work with their current initiatives and programs. Keep in mind that Amazon’s initiative to hire homeless individuals (mentioned above) failed because it was only really hiring homeless individuals for night shifts and swing shift positions. And people who work night shifts need to sleep during the day, when most shelters are closed to those who need to sleep. And swing shift schedules and positions aren’t permanent work and don’t offer enough stability to gain decent housing and accommodations. So, keep in mind what hours these local entities are open and what services they offer so that you can work with them and their initiatives, not against them.
(In part 2 of this article, we’ll highlight more best practices for hiring homeless workers.)