Benefits of Hiring a Person Experiencing Homelessness

Daniel MabryHouston’s homeless population is much more than a statistic or number. They have a name, a voice, feelings, and dignity. They are a part of our community, and I solemnly believe it is our obligation to assist people experiencing homelessness. Among all the causes of homelessness, unemployment contributes to a major 35% portion of it. Therefore, I challenge Houston businesses to expand your understanding of the homeless situation in our community. You are the key to helping our community grow. Together, let us explore the benefits of hiring a person experiencing homelessness.

Great work ethic is hard to come by these days but is crucial to the success of a company. Many soft-skills accompany a person’s work ethic and are necessary for success in the labor market. Essential skills such as integrity, responsibility, discipline, quality and teamwork are great skills for any job seeker to possess. Many people believe that Houston’s homeless population lacks these skills, but I know firsthand this is not true. In my work at Workforce Solutions as a Regional Navigator, I was given the opportunity to witness the work ethic of a young gentleman who was experiencing homelessness. An employer gave this gentleman a job opportunity. He was given a chance to shine, and boy, did he shine! I was truly impressed. This gentleman went above and beyond to give 100% each and every day at work. His work ethic was unquestionable, and the employer was blessed to have him as a part of their workforce. As part of your commitment, I ask businesses not to pass judgement too quickly. The next person you interview may be wearing their only suit or may not have stable housing. This should not be a deterrent from hiring someone that will take pride in their job.

Diversity is in high demand in today’s workforce because it leads to innovation. Leading businesses in the United States cultivate innovation in order to keep an edge on its competitors. For instance, is changing the way we shop by eliminating checkout lines. One determining factor of diversity is past experience; which may also be developed through employment or personally. However, you might wonder how a person’s experience of homelessness can contribute to innovation? The great Roman leader Julius Caesar once said, “Experience is the teacher of all things,” which might explain why employers value experience. Speaking from personal experience, I encountered homelessness when I transitioned from the military. As a result, I can empathize with clients I work with who are experiencing homelessness. I incorporate innovative ideas for staff trainings to best assist clients experiencing homelessness. My personal experience strengthens the Workforce Solutions goal of helping people find a job, keep a job, or get a better job. In other words my experience, which is a determining factor of my own diversity, contributed to innovation.

One important goal for a company is to have a positive image with its consumers. To do so, the business can help the community as well as generate a good rapport with them by hiring people locally experiencing homelessness. In general, it also benefits the business as well. Organizations can investigate subsidies available through local and federal governments for training new employees experiencing homelessness. For example, in 2016 the Income Now Initiative provided subsidies for work experience at the Houston Food Bank. Normally, the work experience alone is a two-week unpaid program; however, Income Now clients were paid an hourly wage while participating. As a result, a rewarding partnership was formed between Houston’s homeless service agencies and the Houston Food Bank.

Key factors to remember about the benefits of hiring a person experiencing homelessness are work ethic, diverse experiences, and company image. More specifically, work ethic includes essential job skills such as integrity and responsibility. Diversity is based one terms of both personal and employment experiences, and how those can add value to the employee and company. The company’s image can either be good or bad. I believe hiring an employee who has faced a homeless situation in his or her life speaks admirably of a business. Remember businesses, you can be an important key to helping our community. And for someone at the lowest point in their life, you may be the bridge needed to make a difference.

Daniel Mabry is a member of the Workforce Solutions Regional Navigator team in the Houston-Galveston region. After serving in the United States Marine Corps for over 9 years, he connected with Workforce Solutions for career guidance and ended up becoming an employee. This position allows him to utilize his training and personal experience to help people experiencing homelessness.

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