We have recently undertaken a survey about the personal experience of homelessness amongst BHT’s staff. We have a target that, by the end of 2012/13, 15% of our staff should be former users of our services.
So how have we done? 9% of our staff have used BHT services in the past, and 33% have received a homelessness service (although not necessarily from BHT). We are not there yet, but it is a start.
Being a former client doesn’t necessarily make one a good worker, or a better one than those who are not. We don’t employ someone because they were once a client. No, we employ people because they are the best person for the job. We employ them because they are professionals, that they understand the ethical framework within which we work – competence, confidentiality, non-judgemental attitudes, and integrity.
One reason we have this target is to ensure that we continue to facilitate learning and work experience opportunities for current and former clients. We recognise that there can be prejudice against men and women who have a history of homelessness, unemployment, mental ill health, substance misuse problems, and so on. Part of the role of BHT is to challenge prejudices.
Another reason for the target is to demonstrate that our Mission (tackling homelessness, creating opportunities, promoting change) is more than six words. It shows that change is possible.
There is no tokenism at work here. I want the best possible workers within BHT, and I want all our projects to be of the highest quality. Who knows, the person who knocks on our door today needing help and support may one day be the person answering the door when you and I are in need.