Homelessness and Human Resource Management in the UK

Homelessness and Addressing the Problem of Homelessness from a Human Resource Management Perspective” This topic is hereby discussed using the case study of the London Borough of Croydon and Shelter From the Storm– a UK-registered, private charity organization that focuses on alleviating the challenges of homelessness.

Introduction

The political philosopher Rawls (2009) argues that a just society is distributive, meaning that the state and its institutions should equally and equitably represent the interests of all citizens.

To this end, he argues that a government policy decision or the enactment of legislation should not be made unless it helps and does not hinder the less fortunate in society. If a policy aids the least fortunate or most vulnerable, justice is then considered to be distributive equally or universally across social classes.

The UK Government’s Homelessness Policy

In the last decade in the UK, and since the rise of neo-liberalism in the post-Thatcher era of the 1980s, it is evident that UK government’s policy on homelessness has not brought a just, distributive result.

In the period between 2010 and 2017, the number of homeless individuals who were sleeping rough in the UK increased by 169 % (Fitzpatrick et al., 2018). Furthermore, in the period between 2013 and 2017, the number of homeless people who died rose by 24 % from 482 deaths in 2013 to 597 in 2017 (Office of National Statistics, 2018).

A significant concern is that more than ten times as many homeless individuals are not captured by statistical figures of homelessness in the UK. The unaccounted for homeless people in the UK include individuals and families who are living precariously with friends, relations and in other situations that are not captured in official UK government statistics on homelessness.

It is estimated that the unaccounted for population of homeless people in the UK increased by 73% between 2010 and 2017 (London Assembly Housing Committee, 2017). Majority of the homeless people who live on the streets and those who have died there, had at one point applied for shelter or used temporary shelter services for homelessness.

 

Homelessness in Croydon, London. Croydon College buildings, Central Croydon
Croydon College buildings- Central Croydon

The UK government has continued to make legislative and policy choices that are creating poorer homelessness outcomes for the most vulnerable. Despite that, there has not been a significant political change or systemic restructuring to address the problem of homelessness in the UK. Current government policy strategies for addressing homelessness in the UK are reactive and not proactive. Sadly, there is a probability that regressive homelessness trends will continue.

This case study analyzes homelessness in the UK and how it specifically impacts the London Borough of Croydon. It also discusses the impact of Shelter From the Storm, a UK-registered, private charity that runs programs for alleviating homelessness in London. In turn, this discussion will look at best practices in human resource management and how they influence service delivery to homeless people in London and the UK at large.

The Problem of Homelessness in the UK

The problem of homelessness in the UK has been getting worse over the last decade, irrespective of the UK government’s policy legislation and programs for addressing the problem of homelessness. There is an important cost consideration for failing to effectively manage the problem of homelessness.

One of the main consequences of not addressing homelessness is the occurrence of a negative feedback loop where health problems become greatly magnified. Secondly, costs in the criminal justice system are incurred given that homeless people are often charged with vagrancy violations and will often resort to crime to meet their financial needs.

Finally, homelessness creates a growing cost for temporary housing is also created. Temporary shelters and housing for the homeless is not a solution but only a stop-gap remedy to homelessness (Farugia and Gerrard, 2016). It is estimated that the cost of homelessness shelters, hospital beds or jail incarceration are all significantly higher than the cost of permanent housing (Aykanian& Lee, 2016).

Therefore, the effective restructuring of homelessness services ought to be considered an investment and not just expenditure; actually, it is a cost that will bring returns when homeless people become less dependent on government services. The returns on investment will be realized in form of savings made by avoiding continued expenditure on homelessness support services.

Homelessness Social Services in the UK and Human Resource Management

The specific demands of human resource management in the field of homelessness support services is complex and diverse. Key attention in this case study analysis will focus on examining homelessness social services and health services can use human resource management theories to create of a model through which the London Borough of Croydon and UK’s Shelter From the Storm charity can best address homelessness in London. 

Both the London Borough of Croydon government and Shelter From the Storm charity acknowledge the high cost of failing to deal with homelessness. However, the two have different abilities in terms of human resource and financial capital to address homelessness, in addition to legal constraints.

The case study has an overall objective of identifying possible opportunities for restructuring the delivery of homelessness services from the vantage point of human resource management such that the social support services for addressing homelessness reflect the actual needs of homeless people and tackle the problems that cause homelessness.

The case study on homelessness will also focus on defining evidence-based solutions that can directly address the existing limitations of the UK government’s policy on homelessness. The case study on homelessness in the UK will further analyze how homelessness policy constraints and homelessness social services limitations impact the successful management of homelessness in the UK.

In its current form, government strategies for mitigating homelessness are failing the homeless, a reflection of the failure to achieve and maintain an equitable and just society (Rawls, 2009; Tsai, 2017). To this end, the case study will analyze the extent to which changes to UK government policy on homelessness and social services can address the economic imbalance caused by homelessness.

The case study will also attempt to define the distinction between systemic problems causing homelessness that are beyond human resource management like economic trends and those problems where a practical human resource management solution is achievable.

From the standpoint of human resource management, some of the best practices for managing social systems, organizational structures, and operations will be analyzed and a comparison made on how government and Shelter from the Storm social service systems for addressing homelessness in the Borough of Croydon measure up to human resource management best practices.

This case study acknowledges that the current government model for providing homelessness social services is not sufficiently meeting the complexity of the demands created by homelessness and poverty (Bramley & Fitzpatrick, 2018). A study that proposes a policy strategy for human resource needs must have a clear and evidence-based understanding of the human resource management requirements in the first-place.

In terms of the organizational structure challenges for the effective management of homelessness, the current government department that is charged with mitigating homelessness is the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. However, the problem of homelessness goes beyond its provisional measures for providing shelter to the homeless and involves a wider range of social, medical, and sometimes, legal/criminal considerations (Tsai, O’Toole & Kearney, 2017).

An  effective strategy for addressing homelessness in London should aim at long-term solutions that address the diverse needs and problems that affect homeless people and the families impacted by homelessness (Lester, 2017). To understand the complexity of developing an effective homelessness mitigation strategy, it is important to understand some of the essential demographic characteristics, challenges and needs of homeless people.

Problems Associated with Homelessness and Homeless People

Homeless individuals are often marginalized in that a high percentage of immigrants and a high percentage of LGBQ backgrounds make up this population (Parsell& Marston, 2012). This factor limits their ability to access government social security services for the homeless.

Aside from financial problems, mental health conditions are the most significant problem that is  correlated with homelessness (Scott-Samuel et al., 2014).  Mental health illness is an umbrella for other related concerns such as substance or alcohol abuse, trauma and abuse, stigmatization of f homeless psychiatric patients (Patterson, et al., 2015).

Furthermore, mental illness is an umbrella for other issues because homelessness causes stress, depression, and anxiety (Castello, Kloos& Townley, 2015). Homelessness can also increase the risk of developing antisocial behaviors such as substance abuse.

Finally, mental health problems and substance abuse are highly correlated with background experiences of domestic violence, abuse and trauma. This highlights the complexity of mental health problems among homeless people (Castello, Kloos& Townley, 2015; Kyle, 2013).

Mental health problems are complex, and although they are health problems, they vary in severity and type to an extent where it is difficult to create a one-size-fits-all solution. Therefore, it is difficult to view providing housing as a single solution to homelessness (Evangelista, 2010).

The social services support programs for addressing homelessness ought to reflect the complexity of the problem. Therefore, multi-pronged social services programs are the best-suited approach for managing the diverse problems associated with homelessness.

Objectives of the Case Study of Homelessness

(a) To determine the causes of homelessness

(b) To determine the existing social service strategies for addressing homelessness and their limitations

(c)  To determine whether social service strategies based on human resources and management best practices help mitigate poverty and homelessness

Why Homelessness Matters to Human Resource Management

The field of human resource management is known for creating efficiency’s and value, and one of the strengths of the professional practice of human resource management is the wide adaptability and capacity to be applied to a diverse range of organisations (Bratton & Gold, 2017).

Human resource management can create efficiency’s in a wide range of organisation types by improving the management of human capital adaptation and diversity within  organisations (Boxall &Purcell, 2011).

One of the key concern about homelessness in the UK is that it is growing and that no effective remedy has worked so far. At the same time, the UK government is trying various strategies to address the problem of homelessness. These attempts face fiscal restraints that are beyond the government’s immediate control.

The application of human resource management best practices can be used within a framework of homelessness social services and health care services to explain how value can be added to existing structures of homelessness social services delivery (Casico, 2015).

Finally, human resource management is capable of addressing one of the key issues of homelessness in the City of London and the Borough of Croydon. In particular, homelessness mitigation strategies in the UK are implemented by a multitude of organizations including many government departments and agencies, and also involve expertise from across different areas of knowledge. Using human resource management theories can add insight on where the existing structures and systems can be improved.

 

1.4.2 Why this research matters to me as a Human Resource Management student

The study of human resources and management is a professional goal of mine that I would like to apply to a meaningful cause. I like that human resources and management is diverse and applicable to all organizations. However, I would like to apply the skills that I acquire in my studies on human resources and management toward organizations that add human or social value more than fiscal value. One of the core values that I grew up with is that one of the goals of being a person is to help improve the condition of other people. I have never felt that there should be a separation between this personal value and a work value; and so my interest in the problem of homelessness is very personal, and it is why I would like to explore the issue of whether or not human resources and management can improve a condition that is currently in a state of a crisis. It is difficult for me to see someone who is experiencing homelessness without wanting to help in some way.

2.0 Literature Review

The following will look at the problem of homelessness from health management and research perspective but begin with an overview of health-care challenges when dealing with homelessness. In human resource management, there is a subspecialty field of front line or community care or public health care (Sambrook & Stewart, 2007). One of the notable elements or noted considerations in the literature and research on homelessness is the actual amount of control or degree in which the quality of evidence is sound, and for example, it is noted that homelessness against housed populations creates a fairly strict control in the comparison given that one is either housed or they are not. From this distinction, many comparisons between those who are housed and those who are homeless are possible and they include important quality of life indicators like longevity, the prevalence of preventable health problems, infant mortality, the frequency and dependency of NHS services (Land, 2011) and then a number of other social indicators that can include dependency on government services, educational obtainment, frequency or involvement with the legal or judicial system (Tsai, 2017).

There is an emphasis when dealing with nursing and health-care on the social determinants of health, and these are recognised and defined by the World Health Organization as involving housing, access to health-care, access to income or employment, food stability, and access to education (Shalock et al., 2016). As social determinants, it means that a deficiency in any of these means that the health outcomes are proven to be negatively correlated and housing is one of the most recognised factors along with access to health-care. There is a notable difference in the quality of life indicators for a homeless individual. However, there are also strategic means by which some of the circumstances that are unique to the condition of homelessness raised in the literature (Kyle, 2013). One of the growing areas of nursing and homelessness is the factor or variable of resilience and a consideration of how individual differences in coping skills have a great deal to do with the outcomes (Castellow, 2015), and so the pro-active rather than re-active community health nursing approach is emphasised in broad terms. Another broad theme in community nursing, are diagnostics and assessment (Kelly &Luxford, 2017). Key diagnostic considerations include the length and duration of being homeless, general health considerations, dietary concerns, and availability social or family support systems, substance abuse concerns and there are likewise general medical diagnostics that would be made on any population (Woith et al., 2017).

Coupled with the centrality and importance of diagnostic and assessment needs are studies that look at nursing and community services human resources management are the issues of accommodation among special populations (Weinrich et al., 2016). Special populations are those that have a disproportionate number among the wider population of those who are experiencing the state of homelessness, and among the overall population there is a disproportionate number of: military veterans, immigrants and refugees, individuals who have experienced trauma, special needs if they are families or parents, higher rates of domestic violence, higher rates of anxiety and depression, more problems with alcoholism and substance abuse, frequent problems with malnutrition and a higher proportion of individuals who identify as Lesbian-Gay-Bi-Queer-Trans (LGBTQ) (Creech et al., 2015; Ravenhill, 2016).

In the literature, each of these sub-categories of nursing and health care management practice is covered in extensive detail, and many of these are regarded as speciality fields themselves. It is notable that mental health is one of the broadest areas that envelope other areas of concern such as the effects of experience that are brought about by trauma, and the higher problem rates of drug addictions and mood disorders and so the focus of nursing is likewise tailored to this general subcategory (Sambrook & Stewart, 2007). That is, nursing health care and then community health-care management has a sub-specialty field of mental health care that is specific to the issue of homelessness. In terms of a focus in literature, one of the essential threads about the special populations that are connected to homelessness is that it is key for practitioners and those supporting them understand the population that they are serving (Sambrook & Stewart, 2007). Further, there is an emphasis on understanding evidenced-based practices in medicine in general among those in the field who deal with the social and health problems created by homelessness.

Some of the practice areas of social services and health care about mental health concerns are worth examining, and they make up a significant portion of the overall community health-care and social services studies (Kelly &Luxford, 2017; Ravenhill, 2016). Critical to the professional considerations that are covered in the research is the practices of risk management along with an assessment as was noted. There is a wide range of literature that examines human resources and management within the health and social service sectors (Burke, 2013). In terms of the particular populations and general health-care strategies, there is an emphasis on understanding the population of clients that are being dealt with and this means the particular problems that this group would have (Horton & Farnham, 2015). Similarly, there is a wide range of studies that evaluate existing systems of delivery and how various human resources and management practices can be assessed against each other (Berman et al., 2018). For example, there are a number of studies that look at forms of development such as teaching for collaborative and team practice, leadership, community practice teacher, mentorship, action learning, continuous learning and professional development, management development, and one of the key points emphasized is the importance of understanding how nurses learn on the job (Flynn et al., 2015; Niles, 2013). Broader areas of learning in health care and community services are also a portion of the literature, and it includes workforce development, lifelong learning, continuing professional development, and organisational learning (McConnell, 2013; Savage, 2010). 

Continuous learning is unquestionably a dominant theme among human resources and management literature but so too are studies that examine how effective different methods and approaches are. For example, there is a growing trend in social and health services toward a client-centred or patient-centred form of service and measuring the effectiveness of delivery, patient and client centred theory and strategies poses challenges even when they are widely adopted (Flynn et al., 2015; Niles, 2013). By patient or client centred, there are areas particular to this population that are a common theme and they include: examining experience with service users and linking these across experiences, acknowledging the wishes, intentions, and autonomy of the individual and emphasize collaborative or team-based recovery or health strategies (Fried & Fottler, 2011).

Further areas of research in human resources and management in health and community services include risk assessment and risk management and the high prevalence of individuals with mental health issues with the high probability that they are in a crisis demands a critical awareness of possible negative outcomes (Kyle, 2013; Flynn et al., 2015) Along with the social and front line services in relation to vocation, there were a number of studies that looked at homelessness specifically concerning the topic or area like health diagnostics which were beyond the scope of the present research. That is, there is a wide range of literature that looks at data such as systolic blood pressure, heart rates and other vitals that are particularly necessary to the nursing care practices that are central to the strategies of the Borough of Croydon.