Exploring the individual and organizational effects of formerly homeless employee inclusion within North Carolina shelters



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This exploratory study examined the individual and organizational effects of formerly homeless employee inclusion on members of the homeless shelter community, including shelter directors, formerly homeless employees, professional employees, and shelter residents. The effects of formerly homeless employee inclusion on shelter residents' vicarious self-efficacy were specifically examined. A qualitative case study design was used to gather interview data from six homeless shelters in North Carolina. The interviewees included five shelter directors, three formerly homeless employees, and seven shelter residents. Professional boundary development was correlated with the impact of formerly homeless employee inclusion within the shelter community. There are more benefits than challenges to formerly homeless employee inclusion in homeless shelters. The challenges generally affected the formerly homeless employees themselves, sometimes to the point of addiction relapse. Formerly homeless employee inclusion provides the benefits of self-efficacy, tough love, and understanding and helping for shelter residents. Additional benefits were found for the formerly homeless employees. Benefits and challenges for professional employees were anecdotal and therefore not trustworthy. There are several major implications for professional practice resulting from this study. Shelter residents in the present study consistently viewed formerly homeless employee inclusion as positive. This positive experience may contribute to improved client engagement, retention, and outcomes. The challenges presented were infrequent, and considered manageable by the shelter directors. These findings may encourage other shelter directors to employ formerly homeless individuals, thereby benefitting others who are either experiencing or working to alleviate homelessness. Formerly homeless employee inclusion is also consistent with strengths-based practice and the social justice principle of the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics, as it provides meaningful opportunities for indigenous participation. Future research should focus on further understanding the correlation between formerly homeless employee inclusion and shelter resident outcomes and the effects of formerly homeless employee inclusion on professional shelter employees.