Employment: A Key to Ending Homelessness, Relieving Poverty and Finding a Pathway to Peace

Written by Patty Rideout, Employment Manager, The Mustard Seed

Who am I?

I am a lot of things. I am a mother, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend, just to name a few. These are some of the most important roles in my life. However, when I meet someone for the first time, none of these things come to mind. I am, almost 100% of the time, the Employment Manager at The Mustard Seed. Why is that? It’s because so much of our identity is based on what we do for work, and our value to others often depends on our profession.

When was the last time you met someone and introduced yourself as a student, doctor, forklift operator, teacher or any of the many professions people have.

So, if our identity is based on what we do, how does this impact the hundreds of guests we serve at The Mustard Seed who are unemployed? How do they identify and how is their value determined?

When I hear the words “the homeless,” it sounds like nails on a chalkboard to me.

Homeless is not a person, it’s a situation.

Many people experience homelessness, have barriers to employment, struggle with addiction, and are diagnosed with mental health issues. They are people, human beings, who deserve the right to be employed without judgment and to have their own identity and not the societal label of homeless.

My challenge to you

The next time you encounter a person who is experiencing homelessness or affected by poverty, take a minute to see the person, not their situation. If you are a hiring manager or recruiter, interview that individual and learn about their skills and experience. If you aren’t in a position to hire, a simple conversation could make a huge difference in someone’s day and bring value to each individual.

The Mustard Seed Employment Program takes a preventive approach to end homelessness. We reach out in our community to offer employment help to those at risk of becoming homeless or experiencing poverty. We work endlessly to reduce the stigma around homelessness by meeting with hiring managers and recruiters to give insight into the high caliber of clients we assist. We help clients look for employment in entry-level work such as housekeeping and dishwashing right up to Red Seal electricians and Mastered Geologist.

Poverty doesn’t discriminate.

Thinking creatively, because we care

Because our identity is closely linked to our work, and our societal value is closely linked to our education and career, I believe that the Housing First Model to address homelessness is not the only solution.

What if we shifted our focus and resources to include an Employment First Model? If we help eliminate employment barriers and get people employed, we can help establish renewed identities and value. Then we can add in the Housing First Model required for a sustainable future.

The Housing First Model works great for many people. We see this every day here at The Mustard Seed with our residents at the 1010 Centre, but it is not a one-size-fits-all, or in this case, one model to end all homelessness!

We need to be creative in our approach to build supports to suit individual situations.

Helping those we serve to find a path to PEACE

Reaching employment goals brings:

Pride: Satisfaction of one’s accomplishments; pride in a particular quality or skill.
Equality: Equality in status, rights, and opportunities.
Acceptance: Being received as adequate or suitable; to be admitted into a group.
Confidence: Self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.
Empowerment: Strength and confidence in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.

Together, these bring PEACE, and being at peace is a wonderful place to be!

Peace lights the way.