A worker in the homelessness sector has said that poor wages, long shifts and a lack of staff support are leaving many reconsidering their career path.
Kevin Brown, deputy manager at Damien House in Londonderry, said that without government action on homelessness, more lives will be lost.
“I believe as a society we are merely placing plasters on deep wounds that can never heal in this way. We need to get deep to the core of these wounds to allow them to heal,” he said.
Kevin is a former homelessness service user himself and said the main challenge working in the field is the low salary. Damien House offers temporary accommodation to those who find themselves homeless.
“There has been a recent pay rise — the first in 20 years — which does not even cover the recent rise in inflation. Most people come into this area due to having a caring nature and wanting to help through goodwill,” he said.
“The rises in cost of living are making many re-consider their career path and often the salary could match that of working in a local supermarket without the stresses attached.
“Staff currently work nightshift on only their basic hourly rate with no enhanced pay whatsoever, shifts are on a 12-hour pattern, and there is lack of support and wellbeing for staff.
“We recently began our own sea swimming group within our team to help combat our stress and anxiety.
“Staff retention is extremely difficult in this field. Staff often experience burnout and we can no longer rely on goodwill and vocation from staff as these do not cover the cost-of-living crisis and rates of inflation.
“Being an ex-service user of the organisation I now work for, I have experienced first-hand what it is like to be homeless, suffer with mental health issues and battle my way through addiction and finding recovery.
“I realise how lucky I am to get the opportunity that many don’t.
“However I am working and living in Northern Ireland with a lack of services and longest waiting lists in the UK.
“I am currently entering the last year of my degree and I am seriously re-considering if I have a future career here within this field like many others.
“I feel I will have no choice but to leave Northern Ireland to find better salary and pay conditions.”