Written by: Varleen Kaur
Edited by: Jacqueline Cheung
Dear CCP readers,
If you are returning for more information regarding the current state of homelessness in Canada and the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) and the particular challenges faced by youth experiencing homelessness and those with animal companions, welcome back! If you are new to our blog, welcome to the community and thank you for your interest in learning more about issues regarding the homelessness crisis in Canada and beyond - you are one step closer to becoming a changemaker in your community, and you are in great company.
Today we’ll discuss the challenges in finding employment for homeless people. People often have the perception that individuals who are facing homeless do not want to work. However, research has shown that people facing homelessness actively try to find work.
No stable roof over one’s head means no address to put on resumes, no number to get calls back from companies, or a safe space to prepare for interviews. Research by Raising the Roof shows nearly 700 youth experiencing homelessness in three Canadian cities and found that 73% were unemployed. Similarly, in a study with 360 homeless youth in Toronto, only 15% identified paid employment as their primary source of income”.
There may be many reasons behind these stats, the perspective of employers being one of the barriers that prevent youth facing homelessness from finding employment. If a potential candidate doesn’t have stable housing, some companies may be reluctant to hire them - perhaps the hiring manager may worry that these individuals’ lives may not be stable enough for them to keep the job or due to the negative stereotypes surrounding people facing homelessness. Participants from a study in Calgary found that homeless people felt ashamed to put their shelter address or explain why they do not have an ID or bank account. Most of them do not want to disclose these details, making the hiring process very stressful.
There is a long list of barriers that people experiencing homelessness have to face in finding employment:
Lack of education
Lack of resources and support
Lack of experience
Limited access to transportation
Discrimination in hiring process
Lack of computer literacy
Lack of vocational training
Mental health issue
Criminal justice involvement
Interview costs (e.g. purchasing business attire)
Inhospitable labour market
Discrimination at work place
Youth experiencing homelessness face increased difficulties when finding a job, such as age discrimination and lack of life skills and experiences, such as time management, budgeting, or conflict resolution. Since they are not left with many options without formal work, they often adopt dangerous survival strategies to meet ends. This could include dealing drugs, stealing, panhandling, or sex work. For example, a study found that youth who dropped out of high school are more likely to get involved in squeegeeing or panhandling.
Minimum wage and its reality
In many situations, the issue of homelessness cannot be resolved by having a minimum-wage job. Despite working, a person may not make enough money to cover their fundamental requirements. This is mainly for people in big cities with more extraordinary living expenses and a shortage of affordable homes. For example, the minimum wage in Ontario is $15.50 per hour. A person would earn $2480/month on this wage if they could work full-time for 40 hours every week. According to Numbeo, the world’s largest cost of living database, it would cost an estimated $4,828.39 CAD per month for a family of four to live in Toronto without paying rent. A single person’s estimated monthly costs are $1,323.50 CAD without rent. With the high rent costs in urban cities, it is evident that it would not be possible to sustain a comfortable lifestyle in Toronto on minimum wage.
While the issue of homelessness can be overwhelming, particularly when it comes to employment, there is hope. However, the solution lies in a fundamental shift in ideology that acknowledges the structural obstacles to employment for the people facing homelessness.
Several interventions are available to help people experiencing homelessness with debilitating problems like mental health and substance use, as well as physical health and disability concerns. Measures like social enterprise intervention, individual placement and assistance, work skills training programmes and transitional jobs programmes are four promising interventions that can be adopted by organizations to help out street-involved individuals.
However, debunking the myths that keep employers from hiring people facing homelessness can be done largely through education and public awareness. Business leaders may identify the unique abilities, skills, and experiences that people who have experienced homelessness can contribute to the organization by increasing their attention on the positive effects of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Similarly, a coordinated effort to significantly expand public financing for housing homeless individuals will have enormous positive effects and remove many of their employment-related obstacles. With the help of this financing, they can receive employment training, including instruction on how to build their resumes. Job prospects will have a physical address and, most likely, more dependable phone access if housing is more widely available. Additionally, they will always have access to bathrooms and laundry facilities. These requirements are essential to getting and keeping a job.
A cycle of stable housing, dependable employment, and consistent healthcare can be substituted for the vicious cycle of homelessness, unemployment, and insufficient medical treatment.
CONSTRUCT is an employment social enterprise managed by Blue Door that fosters labour market attachment for individuals facing barriers to employment in York Region. CONSTRUCT is a solution for the intersection of two challenges; growing demand for skilled employees in the construction industry and vulnerable low-income individuals needing low-barrier jobs and a higher income to achieve housing stability. Their program is designed to help break down barriers to employment and provide direct connections to employment opportunities and careers. They provide transportation, safety equipment and meal support during the training.
Blue Door is CCP’s charitable trustee; we partner with them and provide wellness kits, mental health educational workshops and animal stations. We support Blue Door’s mission by supporting individuals moving from shelters into independent housing. To be a part of this cause, you can contribute towards our care packages and wellness kits or support our goals here.
Thank you for reading our blog! Feel free to leave a comment with your feedback and/or insights to help us enrich the quality of future posts and cater to the interests of our community of changemakers. See you next week!
Overcoming Employment Barriers. National Alliance to End Homelessness. (2013, August 21). Retrieved on November 1, 2022, from, https://www.thecanadiancourageproject.org/post/abuse-in-homelessness-victims-of-domestic-violence
Homelessness and Youth Un/Employment. Homeless Hub. (n.d.) Retrieved on November 1, 2022, from homelessness-and-youth-unemployment
Sustainable Supports for Adult Males: Effective Employment Models to End Homelessness. Homeless Hub. (December 2012). Retrieved on November 1, 2022, from Employment Models Report.pdf
Gaetz, S., O’Grady, B., Buccieri, K., Karabanow, J., & Marsolais, A. (Eds.), Youth Homelessness in Canada: Implications for Policy and Practice. Toronto: Canadian Homelessness Research Network Press.