Eighteen months ago, St Mungo's launched a bold new programme aimed at helping homeless people find a route back into work. It's called Pathways to Employment.
However, finding work isn't easy. We know 97% of St Mungo's clients want to work but only 4% have jobs.
Hundreds so far have taken part in Pathways to Employment, funded solely by money donated by St Mungo's supporters.
Throughout the programme, residents are offered a variety of training and courses, including IT and literacy.
Colin is a St Mungo's client involved in the programme. After he became ill his relationship broke down and he found himself homeless. But within a month of moving to our Cromwell Road hostel he joined the Pathways to Employment programme and has just completed the first stage of a computer training course.
"I am not so hesitant to try something new. My background is in the building trade so I am starting a plumbing course at Hammersmith and West London College soon. Pathways to Employment really helped me. As long as you want help, it's there."
Success rates for programme participants in training are excellent. 78% of those from Cedars Road and 96% from Cromwell Road who participated in literacy training were able to improve their literacy skills.
Taking the first step is the biggest hurdle to participating in Pathways to Employment. The truth is that many people just don't have the confidence. But once they do engage, most will see the programme through. Over 80% of those who participated from Cromwell Road were still taking part after six months.
The early days of the programme can provide a huge challenge for people, especially if they are still overcoming drug or alcohol issues.
Sherif Mohamed is currently twelve months into a training scheme with Beyond Food, a catering company for highend events. After moving to Cedars Road, he was introduced to the scheme by Christos Christophy, a member of the Pathways to Employment team. Sherif was on a methadone prescription but was still using substances on top.
"To start with I still felt like there was something missing in my life...I was constantly watching the clock to see when I could finish and go back to the hostel to take drugs again".
Self-motivation is a key factor with Pathways to Employment. Participation in the programme is voluntary so participants have to want to take part. However, when someone is interested, the Pathways team encourage and support them through the programme, as Sherif found,
"I knew that I needed to escape my situation but I just didn't have the courage, I needed a push in the right direction".
We will shortly receive a full assessment of the Pathways to Employment programme from an independent evaluator, but the initial feedback is extremely encouraging and they have clearly been impressed by the project:
"The Pathways to Employment programme has marked an important step change in St Mungo's approach to working with homeless people and addressing their complex needs. It has required significant and important attiudinal and cultural shifts by both hostel staff and clients."
We'll update you on the evaluator's key findings and with more plans for the future soon.