General Question

SavoirFaire's avatar

Would you hire someone who was homeless (see details)?

Asked by SavoirFaire (23989points) August 19th, 2014

I am often accused of being overly kind to the homeless. There are two recurring strains to these accusations: (1) that the homeless should just get jobs already, and (2) that the homeless are inherently untrustworthy. But if they really were inherently untrustworthy, why would anyone hire them?

I am asking you, then, to put yourselves in the shoes of someone who has the authority to hire people for a company. If you knew that a particular candidate was homeless, how would that affect your willingness to hire them? Would you subject their application to greater scrutiny? Would you look for excuses not to hire them?

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42 Answers

syz's avatar

To be honest, it would affect my willingness to hire them. Issues like reliability of transportation, professional appearance…I would be concerned. I would also be concerned that something like substance abuse, alcoholism, or mental illness may have contributed to their homeless state.

I feel bad about that, but I also think they’re valid concerns.

gailcalled's avatar

I would have to echo @syz, plus factoring in my age. No longer quite so agile and quite so able to fend someone off with a large umbrella.

seekingwolf's avatar

I think @syz hit it on the head. I would worry about transportation and lack of access to a bathroom and acceptable clothes. I know of jobs that won’t hire people without a car. They need you to come in ASAP if needed and that’s part of the job description.
Legitimate concerns.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

If the person is qualified and the best candidate, then yes, of course I would hire a homeless person. Knowing their situation on the front end would definitely raise some red flags, but as long as the requirements for the job are explained in detail on the front end and agreed to, I’d be fine with it.

The reasons for people being homeless spans a whole spectrum. One example is a 60 year-old woman who works at the retirement home where my mother lived. She moved in with her elderly father when he became ill. The father remarried and the wife and her son locked her out of the house. For the past year or more, she has been reliant on the generosity of others for a place to live. The daughter of another resident had her house-sit for a month while she was away. I’d hire her in a heartbeat if there was an appropriate job opening.

dappled_leaves's avatar

It would depend on the apparent character of the individual and the job to be filled, but this is true of any candidate. If they fit the criteria, yes I would.

I have been in a position to hire people, and have never asked as a part of that process, “Are you homeless”? Nor have I ever asked where an interviewee lived. If they come to the interview clean and coherent, I’m not convinced I could tell that they were homeless.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Let me be the person behind the desk for a monment. I have 2 candidates with equal education and qualifications. One is homeless the other is living in an apartment or house 20 minutes away. The latter has a car and a place to keep possessions. Presumably the latter pays bills and has a bank account. That is a data point. I do not have the same data about the homeless person.
As @Pied_Pfeffer mentioned it depends upon the circumstance. But if all things were equal I’d go with the one who is not worrying about where the next night will be spent.

I look at this situation a little differently since I was willing to hire a convicted felon to work for my company. He is extremely talented in his field but has a black mark against him. He is so appreciative and thankful for the job he would work for free! (Of course I do not take advantage of the situation.) He is perfectly reliable and willing to work at any time at any location at a moment’s notice. That is valuable to me.
If he were homeless I’m not so sure he could do that.

Our business requires us to pee in a cup whenever “they” ask. That is not a problem for the felon. He is already doing that as part of his parole.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I think it completely depends on the single instance. Where I live the “traditional” homless fit the stereotype of drug abuse or mental illness. Surrounding cities and states will bus their homless here because we have more resources set aside for them. I used to volunteer at the mission way back in high school. It was not a pleasant experience for me. Honestly, I’ll be biased against them but people surprise me sometimes and I usually root for the underdog. If I get the sense that all a particular person would need is a chance they’ll get that chance.

snowberry's avatar

I have two homeless friends. One drinks. The other doesn’t, and as far as we can tell he’s clean. He walks everywhere, and seems to get where he needs to on time. Yes I’d hire my “clean” friend, assuming the job was right and his background check came back right. I also have a friend who has done so and will do so in the future.

keobooks's avatar

SOMEONE is hiring the homeless. Many are employeed already

wildpotato's avatar

I can’t really imagine my little business growing to the point where we’d need to hire someone, but I would hire a homeless person. It’s not even that uncommon of a thing to do in my farming community, as a room-and-board for work arrangement. Only a step away from WWOOFing, really.

RocketGuy's avatar

My buddy’s brother hired a homeless guy to do some stuff around his house. The guy used a knife to poke holes in the car seat while they were driving to his house. My coworker hired a homeless guy to help clean up his garage. The guy grabbed some stuff and took off when my coworker went inside to fix him lunch. He didn’t even stay long enough to get paid.

Anecdotes for sure, but not good reviews.

longgone's avatar

I’m pretty sure I would, yes. “Homeless”, unfortunately, brings a certain type of guy to my mind. That person, I would probably not hire. If I met a potential employee and happened to like him, however, I’m almost certain their being homeless would not change my opinion.

zenvelo's avatar

The pre-determination of unreliability for someone being homeless is why they need addresses they can use when searching for jobs.

One cannot ask a prospective employee “are you homeless?” or even “where do you live?” Those are discriminatory questions, and with good reason.

@gailcalled Why do you have to worry about fending someone off with an umbrella? What in the world does that have to do with being homeless?

@longgone has an image of a homeless person being a man. Would it be differant if it was a woman?

keobooks's avatar

When I lived in San Francisco in the early 90s, there was a designated address for homeless people so they could get mail and give an address. Thanks to SFNet (may it rest in peace) homeless people had email addresses and could buy time at a computer terminal for a quarter. So they could be more legit than homeless in other cities.

I knew homeless people with jobs and who went to college and trade schools while being homeless. I have no idea how they bathed or managed stuff like that. I just hung out in a cafe in the Lower Haight where they tended to congregate. I do know that most of their jobs were under the table.

I also knew a former homeless guy who said he pulled in 30k a year tax free from panhandling. It all went into a needle in his arm, but that’s pretty impressive. I’d say that was a job in itself.

The one thing that made them look homeless to me was a dark tan on their face and sunburned cheeks. This seems to be universal. Otherwise, I don’t think you can really tell someone is homeless just by looking at them. I think people need to remember that the stereotypical crazy homeless guys are usually severely mentally ill and would have been in State Hospitals before the reforms in the late 70’s – early 80s. They stand out the most, because many of them are loud and those are usually the ones you see peeing in the street and muttering to themselves. But thats not the norm.

Berserker's avatar

Depends what the job is. But if physical appearance wasn’t an issue I would, if I thought the person qualified. I’d want to give them a chance, but one can’t ignore the factors of homelessness which may do more bad than good, either.
If I didn’t hire them it would have nothing to do with discriminitation though.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Once again, per the OP’s request, I will put myself in the position of the person doing the hiring.
If I work for a large company, I probably work in the HR department. My job is to bring the best candidates into the organization. I might receive a dozen (or more) resumes for a particular job. Using my people skills and a bit of common sense I am supposed to pick the 2 best candidates to invite back for a company visit. During that visit they will spend a day being interviewed by various people in the organization involving a total of at least 12 man-hours. That time and their travel expenses and lodging will be covered by the company – not a trivial sum.
Now, I must ask myself the following questions: Given the data I have, do I believe this person is the best fit for my company? Do I want to stake my reputation on this person?

dxs's avatar

I wish there was an accurate figure on the percentage of people without homes who suffer from addiction problems.
It depends on what job I was hiring for. If it’s at a restaurant, I’d want the employee to be hygienic. I wonder if there is a job out there that is fitting for a homeless person. I wonder if it’s possible for a company to provide showers as a benefit.

(1) that the homeless should just get jobs already As a young white male, it even took me a while to get a job. I’m sure anyone without a home will need something short of a miracle to get hired.

Eggie's avatar

I would be reluctant as well.

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

I would hire the most qualified individual If that person happened to be homeless, I would additionally help them find some services to help them cope. There are many many helps now for work clothes, special places just for outfitting homelss persons with clothes for seeking hobs, and then wearing to work. Some areas have soup kitchens or food pantries which provide sack lunches to homeless persons with jobs. Any such services would be in my rolodes, and would be passed on when I interview the individual. I have hired homeless persons to do odd jobs. All have been grateful. All have been capable. Most have proved themselves more than capable. In contrast, the people I hired to pack my truck when I moved here three years ago were not homeless. They stole half my crap, which I had no way of knowing for a couple of weeks, and so for this service, I paid them. My little girl’s xbox. She handed it to them herself, and asked them to be sure to put it someplace very safe. If I had any way to get my hands on them now….
Homeless people who got that way from being lazy, dirty, untrustworty, etc., don’t apply for particularly good jobs, so if I were hiring for a crappy job, what difference would it make anyway? And why am I in this crappy place to begin with? I’m BETTER than that!

flutherother's avatar

Homelessness isn’t necessarily a character flaw. If he/she was the right person for the job I would give them an advance so they could rent a place. Problem solved.

marinelife's avatar

As long as they had a cell phone and were presentable grooming-wise, I would hire them if they were qualified. If I was homeless and searching for work, I would not tell potential employers though.

longgone's avatar

@zenvelo I noticed that while writing the post. I could have exchanged the word “guy” for a more generic one, but found my automatic choice too interesting not to include. I wonder whether I really do see more homeless men than women.

JLeslie's avatar

Depends on the job. I would love to employ someone who is homeless to help them if they had the desire and will to work. People are homeless for so many different reasons. My biggest concern would be my safety and the safety of other employees. As long as that wasn’t a concern I would be open.

zenvelo's avatar

@LuckyGuy I ask you, how do you know the person is homeless?

There are many homeless amongst us that do their best to hide the indignity of not having a place ego live. It’s not so much the chronic drunk, the junkie that lies sprawled on the street, the mentally ill person who hears voices. There are those who have a whole family, that are doing their damnedest living in cars, in shelters, who show up in clean clothes and scrubbed faces and combed hair, who lost their job or got laid off from a bank and now can only work at WalMart.

People on this thread all have a vision of some street person who does nothing but gets high or drunk. But most people that are homeless are just trying to make it to another day and to get a roof over their head.

trailsillustrated's avatar

When I was homeless, I did odd jobs off craigslist. I always looked clean and tidy, you wouldn’t have guessed I was homeless. MOST but not all of the other homeless people I knew had drug problems, especially meth, they are magpies and will steal anything, even junk that doesn’t make sense. I would be leery.

Buttonstc's avatar

For me it would depend upon what type of homeless person we are talking about.

Yes, there are many people who are a few paychecks away from homelessness should they lose their job.

But that type of person would also have a work track record and references I could check. In all likelyhood I would hire them.

However, there are the chronic homeless for whom there are no references to check. Even if they can manage to show up clean and presentable, there is no way to determine whether they are trustworthy or dangerous.

Ed Smart (the father of Elizabeth who was abducted and held captive for almost a year) used to frequently hire homeless people for odd jobs.

The guy who stole Elizabeth was someone who showed up at his door and he paid him to do landscaing. Apparently he did a good job on that but what difference did that make.

He was a complete wacko sociopath as well as homeless.People like that can be very manipulative and ingratiate themselves with people easily.


I’ll take a stab at the question you asked Gail with one of my own for you. Namely, do you think Ed Smart is still hiring homeless people whose references or track record he has no way too check? Or do you think he realized that his compasssion for the homeless overruled his common sense?

I think the answer is obvious.

There are different types of homeless people. One is like the guy portrayed by Will Smith who had the bad luck to lose his job but was determined not to succumb to despair and worked harder to get back into the workforce for the sake of his child. I would hire that type of homeless person in a heartbeat.

And then you have the type that Ed Smart dealt with or that @trailsillustrated describes. Neither Gail nor I would want to hire that type.

And let’s face facts here. Single women are far more vulnerable to homeless with less than honorable intent. Someone like @LuckyGuy could most likely be able to deal with (and fight off physically) the wrong type of homeless guy trying to take advantage of him.

It’s just not that easy for a woman (or a 15 yr. old girl) so @gailcalled and I are going to be a WHOLE LOT MORE
cautious. That’s just common sense and I’m certainly not going to be guilted into hiring someone homeless if I have no way to verify their trustworthiness. My life could depend upon my exercise of good judgement.

gailcalled's avatar

@zenvelo: @Buttonstc expanded my shorthand response. I used the example of a large umbrella as the only weapon I have handy, but i forgot the wrought iron poker.

Buttonstc's avatar


I guess it’s a bit unlikely that Milo would come to your defense. Even though those claws and teeth can be formidable, I guess he’s more in the habit of using them on you when you annoy him with nail clipping or medication attempts :D

zenvelo's avatar

@gailcalled would beat anyone down on their luck off with a wrought iron poker? Hmmm.

“Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.” – Herman Melville

gailcalled's avatar

^^ Forget the homeless. A hummingbird just flew into my living room; the best weapon appears to be a broomstick since Milo is happily snoozing in the sun nearby with no apparent interest.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@zenvelo You asked how I would know the candidate was homeless. If the candidate hid the fact so well that I didn’t know, then I wouldn’t know. Perfect. But, if I knew I’d be particularly wary. I might ask the folks in HR to do a background check check risking. Does the candidate have an arrest history? Are there anger issues? Are drugs involved? Why does the candidate not have a friend or family members willing to temporarily open their house to a person in need? Were there problems?
Meanwhile I have 11 other equally qualified candidates without the additional baggage. I am getting paid to bring the best candidates to the company. Why would I stake my job and reputation on this total stranger? I am not, nor is my company, a church or welfare organization.

zenvelo's avatar

@LuckyGuy I am not advocating a preference for someone who is homeless, I am just pointing out an assumption on this whole thread that:

“homeless” = “dirty drug/alcohol abusing, stinky guy with dirty scaly feet who is unreliable”.

Yet a significant number of homeless are not that, but people who for one reason or another are down on their luck and struggling to get re-established.

Some think if you’re homeless you should be beat off with an umbrella. Others seem that it means you will steal anything you can get your hands on, or kidnap the nearest teen to be your sex slave.

And your responses seem to come from knowing the person is homeless, and needing a background check above and beyond anyone else.

longgone's avatar

It’s also worth pointing out that a number of homeless are living on the streets by choice – there may not even be any financial difficulties involved.

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

There is that, but they aren’t job hunting. Not for regular, steady jobs.

keobooks's avatar

This is probably why many homeless don’t go apply for jobs. This is crazy. It’s one of the reasons I think that we should have some sort of national daycare program.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@keobboks. That makes me sick – especially since she was going for a job interview. Someone held a fundraiser and raised $22,000. That sounds like a lot but it will all be sucked up by her legal fees. Such a waste. What she needed was the job!

JLeslie's avatar

@keobooks I remember that story. Sounds like a volunteer network to watch children while women go on interviews might be a nice idea in cities around the country. Women could do it for each other who are in the same position, someone just needs to organize it.

LuckyGuy's avatar

She needed a friend or relative to help. Where was the baby daddy? She is 35 years old with a 2 year old and 6 month old. Where is her mother or other family member. You know she is desperate and destitute – and she added 2 more hungry mouths to feed.
The only good I can see from this is the children will likely go to CPS where they will now have a roof over their head and 3 square meals a day.

dxs's avatar

I talked to someone who was homeless today and he told me that he twirls signs for a job.

RocketGuy's avatar

It’s really screwed up that:
1) she had >1 kid but no good income (no access to birth control?)
2) no father around to help
3) no relatives around to help

That’s where a safety net could help, but somehow have to make sure she can stay on her feet. That’s the hard part.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I checked for follow up. Four months later there was this article .
In late July (4 months after the arrest) the prosecutor dropped charges.
The fund raiser gave her >$114,000.
She was still working on getting her kids back. She has 3!
She is supposed to set up a trust of $10,000 for each child to be used for their education.
No mention of a job.

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