Can Hospitality Jobs Cure Homelessness?

Downtown Streets Team

Three global training programs are helping people in need to find hospitality jobs

Homelessness has become a major focus of the hospitality sector. Event professionals have started speaking out about the risks to security—as well as the human tragedy—of people living on the streets near venues. More than 550,000 people experienced homelessness in the United States on a single night in 2017. Many cities are dedicated to giving people back their dignity and cleaning up the streets, including plans to use a portion of transient occupancy taxes for social services. Some see the hotel industry as part of the solution. Here are three approaches.

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1. Pavement Power

Nonprofits in England are pioneering job training as civic enhancement. London-based charity Only a Pavement Away started in 2018 as a channel to help homeless people find employment in hospitality.

“The industry is always looking for people who have the behavior, ability and desire to work,” founder Greg Mangham, a 17-year veteran of the hospitality industry, told TalkRadio. “What we do is link the charities with employers that have joined our program.” Funding is in place to support the transition into a job, with the goal of finding employment for 500 homeless people by the end of 2019. “The fact that employers know where the applicant has come from and what his history is, makes the interview so much better,” Mangham says.

2. Hospitality 101

The Goring Hotel partnered with The Passage, one of London’s largest homeless resource centers, to offer Hotel School, a 10-week program that teaches people skills they need for a job in the hospitality industry. Since 2017, they have been able to find full-time positions for 24 graduates. Co-founder Jeremy Goring has more than 50 volunteer mentors, including Michelin-starred chef John William (executive chef at The Ritz London) and Rugby World Cup winner Will Greenwood in the role of fitness trainer.

3. Conquering Chefs

San Francisco Travel Association President and CEO Joe D’Alessandro has been an outspoken advocate for helping people shift to stable housing. “It is a risk to talk about it,” he said, “but we have a responsibility to do what is needed to make sure people have a positive experience walking the streets.”

A collaboration between The Hotel Council of San Francisco and the advocacy group CleanSafe365, a political and social coalition, aims to make the streets safer and cleaner.

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The coalition has endorsed CHEFS (Conquering Homelessness through Employment in Food Services) a 10–12-week training program that assists currently living on the streets in pursuing a career in the kitchen. “Given the right attitude and desire,” program manager Melanie Brew says, “everything else can be taught. We give people the ability to go on anywhere in the food services industry, and we haven’t had any trouble finding employment for them.”

The Hotel Council Executive Director Kevin Carroll sees only benefits from the hospitality industry getting more involved. “You can start getting at the root causes of the problem,” he says. “You end up with improved conditions for guests and employees, and on top of that people are getting off the streets.”

3 Ways Event Professionals Can Help

Urban myths around the causes and cures for homelessness make effective solutions elusive. Brandon Davis, director of social innovation at Downtown Streets Team in San Francisco (which competes with San Jose for third-largest unsheltered population in the United States, behind Los Angeles and New York City), explains that the majority of those on the streets today had homes in the area before they lost the roof over their head, and the cost of housing makes getting back into a stable situation difficult. “Being homeless can be a full-time job, accessing mediation, transportation and looking for employment,” he says. Social services can help with some things, but dignity is a scare resource. He works with groups that come to town to share the global, historic and local perspective of the crisis with a realistic call to action at the end.

What can groups do?

  1. Direct giving is the most effective way to facilitate change. Invest in the local landscape of social innovation. Although including groups in projects can be a powerful way to shift perspectives, hosting volunteers requires a big investment in manpower for the charity. Raising money to donate to those on the ground is more efficient.
  2. Sponsor a cultural competency talk to help everyone understand the true impacts of allowing so many to go without.
  3. Acknowledge the humanity in others. Downtown Streets’ Just Say Hi program works to bring people together by connecting them as human beings.
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