With her lack of education and work experience, Gail Omeasoo didn’t think she’d find a full-time job.
Four years ago, she received $900 of social assistance and disability benefits a month and earned $500 a month working at an addiction recovery house.
Three years ago, she got a job with Atira Property Management and has advanced to become program manager at Marr Housing for Women. She takes home $2,600 a month.
“I took myself off social assistance and disability and my life has just changed,” Omeasoo said. “I’ve grown in so many ways.”
Now 48, she’s touted by Atira Women’s Resource Society, which is partly funded from profits by the Atira Property Management company it owns, as a success story in hiring residents of the Downtown Eastside.
The society commissioned financial firm EY (Ernst and Young) to measure the social return on investment of hiring residents of the Downtown Eastside, people who were unemployed or underemployed, receiving income assistance and/or living in single room accommodation hotels.
Atira released the report last week that contends hiring people from the Downtown Eastside benefits taxpayers at a rate of more than three to one. EY reported that for every dollar spent to employ the target group of 105 employees in 2012 and 2013, Atira gained a social return on investment of $3.32.
EY measured and analyzed the qualitative and quantitative costs of hiring people from the Downtown Eastside and the actual and estimated impacts on social assistance, local spending, social housing, criminal justice and health costs, food banks and meal programs, employability and quality of life.
Atira Property Management started hiring from the Downtown Eastside in 2007 when B.C. Housing gave the company a week’s notice to staff five buildings. It hires front desk clerks, security and janitor personnel. Omeasoo grew up in social housing in the Downtown Eastside with an alcoholic mother and three younger siblings she started caring for at age six. She ran away at 12, has a Grade 10 education and struggled with heroin and cocaine addictions.
Having lived in one of Atira Women’s Resource Society’s transition houses 20 years ago, she was keen to work for the Atira Property Management company.
Janice Abbott, CEO of Atira Property Management, says the company has learned plenty about recruiting, screening, orienting, training and supervising. If the company hires an individual with a history of addiction, Atira has learned it must provide that person with extra support after they receive their first two paycheques.
EY reported employment with Atira reduced a worker’s reliance on government social assistance, including support, shelter and health. Twelve of 61 employees who were living in SRAs moved out, freeing up space for others. “Many of the men with jobs are actually catching up [on child support],” Abbott added. “Sometimes it’s garnished and sometimes it’s voluntary.”
Abbott says Atira contracted a well-known international firm to reliably quantify social returns. She hopes more organizations will hire people with barriers to employment including developmental delays or mental illness.
“Whether it’s government or private sector, if we all made a commitment to doing what we could in terms of hiring folks with barriers to employment, it would make a huge difference,” she said.
View the report at atira.ca.
© Copyright 2013