Co-ordinated support needed to go from homelessness to employment

Working leads to better mental health, self belief, feelings of inclusion, Cork Simon finds

The study looked at some 18 people over the course of 25 months from the time that they moved into employment with support from Cork Simon.

The study looked at some 18 people over the course of 25 months from the time that they moved into employment with support from Cork Simon.

 

Employment can prove a huge help to those trying to get out of homelessness but co-ordinated support systems are needed if people are to successfully make the transition, a new study by Cork Simon has found.

Dermot Kavanagh, director of Cork Simon, said the study clearly highlights the challenges facing people trying to get out of homelessness and into employment as well as the need for specially tailored support services.

“This research demonstrates employment can unlock the door to personal growth and development, can enhance life satisfaction and help to counteract the isolation and exclusion often experienced by people who are homeless.

“We see from the challenges people faced that co-ordinated supports encompassing life supports as well as work supports are needed to help people effectively start and sustain employment.”

The study entitled A Working Life: The Early Days by author, Sophie Johnston looked at some 18 people over the course of 25 months from the time that they moved into employment with support from Cork Simon.

Recovery

Ms Johnston, who works as Research and Communications Co-ordinator with Cork Simon, explained that all 18 participants bad experienced homelessness or were at risk of homelessness at the time they began employment in 2017.

Over half were currently homeless and staying in emergency accommodation when they were assisted by Cork Simon’s Employment and Training Team as they endeavoured to get back into the workforce, she added.

Ms Johnston explained that 33 per cent of participants were long term unemployed when they began their employment while 39 per cent were in early recovery from addiction at the time.

Some 89 per cent of participants in the study had experienced homelessness in the previous two years while 56 per cent were staying in emergency accommodation when they began their return to employment, she added.

“It’s clear from the 18 participants that the sheer number of challenges that they faced starting work was significant – coping with the noise and disruptive nature of staying in emergency accommodation was one such challenge.

“The participants also identified the toll on the body of physically demanding work often coupled with a physical commute as well as having to deal with final issues such as emergency tax and budgeting difficulties.

What made the early days in work so challenging for this group 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.”

Improvements

According to Ms Johnston, some six weeks after starting employment, over two thirds – 67 per cent – were still in employment and among these, one person had been promoted and two had moved to a second more suitable job

The respondents identified improvements to mental health, self-belief and feelings of inclusion as the most common positives to starting work with 28 per cent indicating improved mental health and 78 per cent reporting improved positive morale.

“The people in this study are highly motivated ‘to get back to work’ – 95 per cent of participants had worked before with two thirds having worked in the last year – it’s a way of life that they know, or knew, and value,” said Ms Johnston.

“Their willingness and determination to work is reflected in the hard, physically demanding jobs they take, the lengths some go to just to get to work and the circumstances under which many commence work.”