Homelessness can be caused by a range of actors such as
relationship breakdown, debt and financial difficulties, substance
misuse, and imprisonment. The number of homeless people is very
difficult to calculate because of the transient nature of the
homeless population and because the various forms of homelessness
are counted in different, but sometimes overlapping ways. However,
the pressures of the economic downturn combined with a lack of
affordable housing and housing benefit cuts mean more people are
facing homelessness and, after years of declining trends, 2010
marked the turning point when homelessness began to rise.
In relation to employment, the homelessness
charity Crisis finds that:
- 2% of homeless people are in full-time employment and 12% work
- 50% of homeless people have been unemployed for three years or
- 37% of homeless people have no qualifications; and only a third
have qualifications equivalent to five Standard Grades or
- 77% of homeless people would like to work now and most have
worked at some point in the past.
Homeless people often face multiple barriers that hold them back
from moving towards and into employment. These barriers
- No or low qualifications.
- Poor basic skills - e.g. literacy and numeracy.
- Low self-confidence.
- Lack of work experience or incomplete work histories.
- Lack of recent references.
- Housing situation not conducive to training for a job or
sustaining a job.
- Health and/or substance misuse problems.
- Debt and financial worries.
- Criminal background.
- Perceived or actual discrimination from employers and
- Isolation and lack of social networks.
Policies and Interventions
Recent policy has made reference to the importance of addressing
the employability needs of homeless people. The Housing Scotland
Act (2001) required local authorities to write homelessness
strategies that took account of employability, and both the Code of
Guidance in May 2009 and the Prevention of Homelessness Guidance in
June 2009 mention employability agencies and employment as being
important parts of the bigger picture in tackling and preventing
homelessness. There is, however, for example, still no statutory
duty to record the employability needs of people presenting as
homeless, and no tracking systems to measure the employability
route to employment.
In supporting homeless individuals towards and into employment,
good practice suggests the need to:
- Adopt a holistic approach where all agencies work in
partnership to support the individual. These include housing,
health, social work, education and employability services.
- Create a culture where employability is seen as central and
positive amongst all support partners.
- Take into account people's fears and potential risks and build
robust information networks to support and reassure the
- Adopt a 'small steps' approach that gradually break down their
barriers to employment.
- Tailored, flexible support as traditional learning routes may
not always be the most appropriate. Learning in groups may be
overwhelming & intimidating, while engagement may ebb and flow.
Folio based learning can aid in this respect as clients can build
their evidence base of learning at their own pace.
- Build services around what actually appeals to clients.
- Peer mentoring through fellow and former homeless