A new charity is providing a fast-track route for the UK’s homeless people to work in the hospitality industry.
Only A Pavement Away works with a number of homeless charities to link homeless people with companies which can offer work to help them rebuild their lives.
In the mould of Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen project, which for more than 15 years has trained vulnerable unemployed young people to work in restaurants, it looks to give the apprentices a second chance at life by providing the skills they need to get ahead.
A 2017 report in YaleGlobal Online found New Zealand had the worst homelessness in the OECD with “more than 40,000 people live on the streets or in emergency housing or substandard shelters”, prompting action by the Ardern government to fund a $100 million emergency housing package to protect the homeless this winter.
The British picture is similar, with an April report by housing charity Crisis finding the UK is gripped by a “truly terrible” housing crisis, with 100,000 households likely to be in temporary accommodation within three years.
The British government has since launched a £100m plan to halve rough sleeping across the nation by 2022 and eradicate it by 2027, but charities say a freeze on working-age benefits is actually pushing more people into poverty.
Only a Pavement Away says its project provides a win-win solution by employing a homeless person and easing what it describes as a recruitment crisis in the hospitality sector.
Founder Greg Mangham told Sky News the idea provides a route to employment for those who’ve fallen on hard times.
He said: “When they go to the interview the person who is interviewing them knows they’ve been homeless.
“So there’s never the difficult conversation of ‘oh my god, what do I ask them?’ ‘Are they going to turn up in a sleeping bag?’ ‘Are they going to come to work having slept in the doorway?’
“And they also know that the homeless charity and associations have a structure that protects these people.
“If they have a problem then the employer just rings the charity or association and they’ll get a support worker in there.”
The charity aims to help some 500 homeless people find jobs by the end of the year and is looking to extend its service to ex-offenders and former military personnel.
Young’s Pubs is one of the hospitality companies it is working with, recruitment manager Abi Dunlop saying some recruits who’ve been homeless can make better employees.
“I think the positive of coming through this channel is that we do know their background and it’s being very honest,” she told Sky News.
“The charities we work through make sure that they are work ready so actually it can be potentially more reliable than someone where we don’t know their background just through an interview.”
In New Zealand, skills shortages across the booming tourism and hospitality sectors mean businesses are often left struggling to find adequately qualified staff.
Demand for workers is expected to stay high, driven by projected unprecedented growth in overseas tourist numbers.