Coping with the noise and the disruptive nature of staying in emergency accommodation is one of the main challenges faced by homeless people trying to maintain a job a report from Cork Simon has found.
The report into the working patterns of people with experiences of homelessness was launched this morning.
The study tracked the lives of 18 people over 25 months from the time they moved into employment with support from Cork Simon’s Employment and Training Team. It found several common challenges for individuals.
Disturbed sleep and a lack of peace at the emergency shelter accommodation was one thing that many complained about with one study participant saying: “Going to work every day and then going back there and listening to the chaos and mayhem that go on inside the building.”
Another issue was the toll on the body of physically demanding work, often combined with a physical commute, until the body adjusted.
One individual said: “At first because I wasn't used to the job, for me this [the commute] was part of the job - going to the job. I was already tired when I got there."
"It was physically difficult because I didn’t work one and a half year, like really physical work so it was kinda difficult the first week for the body to get used to it.”
Another problem that many found stressful was financial issues such as emergency tax and budgeting.
Despite the challenges, at the time of their interviews – approximately six weeks after starting employment, two thirds (67%) of participants were still in employment.
Among them, one person had been promoted and two had progressed to a second, more suitable job.
Improvements to mental health, self-belief and feelings of inclusion were identified as the most common positives to starting work, with 28% indicating improved mental health and 78% identifying positive morale at work.
A key finding of ‘A Working Life: The Early Days’ was the need for integrated supports for people with experience of homelessness as they start, or in most cases, return to work.
Director of Cork Simon Dermot Kavanagh said: “This research demonstrates that 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.”
Sophie Johnston, the author of ‘A Working Life: The Early Days’, said it was clear from the study that the sheer number of challenges they faced starting work were significant.
“Starting a new job can be a challenging time for many people. What made the early days in work so challenging for this group of people 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.”
Commenting on participants’ work ethic, Sophie Johnston said: “The people in this study are highly motivated ‘to get back to work’.
“It’s a way of life that they know, or knew, and value. 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.” The study was launched as part of Simon Week 2019 at a breakfast briefing at Republic of Work in Cork City.