Haulier calls for more businesses to employ homeless people

A haulier is calling on other businesses to challenge their assumptions about homeless people and give them a chance to prove their worth as employees.

Harinder Singh, managing director of BJS Haulage, made the call after partnering with the ‘Under One Sky’ community organisation to demonstrate the viability and necessity of employing those who are currently without a home, with the aim of greatly reducing homelessness in the UK.

BJS Haulage took on 21-year-old Mark O’Reilly in the summer as a driver’s mate. He had been living on the streets since he was 16. His mum’s addictions denied him a nurturing start to life but the street-smart survival instincts he cultivated largely kept him out of trouble. Under One Sky found him outside the National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square during the lockdown. Well versed in street living, O’Reilly was sceptical of offers of support and initially turned down attempts to find him secure shelter. The team won his trust and, thanks to a private sponsor, arranged a hostel where he remained at the height of the pandemic.

However, an Under One Sky volunteer didn’t want the end of pandemic support to mean O’Reilly’s only option was to return to the streets. He reached out to Singh, a personal friend, and enquired as to employment opportunities at BJS that would be a fit for O’Reilly. As an expanding company with vacancies that prioritised hard work and commitment over academic qualifications, he was offered a role as a driver’s mate, a role he has been successfully managing for four months now.

“[Mark] needed someone to believe in him, someone to back him and give him a break,” says Singh. “We want to challenge the assumptions around homelessness, recognising and acting on our potential to help. It would be wrong to assume that those failed by society will fail those who help them back on their feet. Empathy and compassion in the corporate world should be the norm, not the exception.”

Under One Sky recognise the importance of on-going support as people transition into new opportunities but hope that this case study shows that it can be done.

In addition, on October 24, Singh and the BJS Haulage team loaded a truck with donations to gift to those still on the streets, distributed with the support of Under One Sky.

Mikkel Juel Iversen, founder of Under One Sky, said: “We are incredibly grateful to Harinder and the BJS team for shining a light on the positive contributions our previously homeless friends can make, to businesses and their wider communities, when given the chance. If we are to be successful in our goal of ending homelessness once and for all, then we all have a role to play.  We look forward to partnering with other businesses in the future that are inspired by Harinder’s example.”

By returning to the streets of London together, BJS and Under One Sky hope to encourage other companies to support these types of schemes, to the mutual benefit of all parties.

Dan Parton
Dan Parton
Dan Parton is a former editor of Truck & Driver, the UK’s biggest selling truck magazine. He is now writes for The Van Expert and The Truck Expert.

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