Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Report of Findings Around Skills Development & Education:

Here is another slightly boring (unless you happen to be a stakeholder in the shelter industry) entry in my report of findings. But we must do our chores before we can do the fun stuff LOL. Next project will be a very insightful & entertaining handbook for people who are working (or will be working) with the homeless and street people. So only a few more segments of the Findings... then I'll prep it for distribution, by the end of July, I should be writing and ranting again like my old self.  Have a joyous day.

Skills Development& Education:
Observations:  As I explained in demographic about 50% of shelter residents are homeless due to poverty issues. Many are between jobs or are employed in low income service industry positions. This situation, in combination with a personal crisis can easily cause one to be displaced from their home.  These are, our transitional clients and the best candidates for skills training and upgrading. The DI (Calgary Drop-In) is the only shelter I have found offering all levels of these services in house. Most shelters work in conjunction with other agencies and programs.  Given the wide variety of needs it is understandable that most client care providers do not offer job skills training.  
         Drop-In centres are often good sources for basic needs in the area of job search. Many have literacy programs run by volunteers; given that 20% of Canadians are functionally illiterate this should be seen as an essential service. Also tutoring is offered in resume writing and job search, these are usually managed by an employment counselor working for the centre. Most cities have some kind of “Dress for Success” program which provides free wardrobe options for interview situations or re-entering the workplace. Some even offer self awareness programs, personality testing and such to help clients who (through illness, injury or just economic shift) are forced to rethink their life plan including employment options. Much can and is being done for clients wanting to re-enter the workforce. Some shelters which designate themselves as “transitional” have these programs mandatory for clients.
         Many able-bodied homeless and street people choose to work day labour, earning between $40 - $80 for 6 -12 hour shifts. Some of these agencies are reputable and honest, matching workers with companies for a reasonable percentage of the hourly wage. They screen employers and employees so that all parties are satisfied with the result. Unfortunately this industry is rife with exploitation… agency taking as much as 50% of the hourly wage while providing little or no assurance to the workers. The good agencies have a regular base of workers so it is difficult for a new face to catch-out. This is a good option for street people because it provides ready cash, when you are feeling up to it… without any ongoing commitment to an employer. The DI and the Bissell Centre in Alberta both run a day labour office on site in the mornings, this a real benefit to clients and can result in ongoing employment if the fit is right.

Conclusions:  I guess my conclusion is we are doing what we can. Unfortunately shelters which designate as transitional also house people who are nowhere near ready to move forward with their lives. Their failure to comply will result in conflict with staff and having them barred or boycotting the one safe shelter a city may have. Acquiring a forklift ticket (or any other accreditation) does not insure a person will use it. As the environment erodes a person’s self esteem, it also erodes their sense of purpose and direction.

Recommendations:  Well first it would be great if every shelter/drop-in ran its own day labour program.  If I haven’t said it before… separate the client populations.  For this particular matter the benefits would be better concentration of services and staff.  Clients could be assessed and served based on their individual needs. I would also recommend that every client care worker be knowledgeable about the services, training and education options offered through other agencies and the various levels of government, within their communities.

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