Exploring the perceptions and experiences of previously homeless persons regarding the impact of a work skills programme on their worker role
van der Pol, Petra
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Globally, high rates of homelessness exist and continue to grow, despite interventions offered by government and suggested by policy. Evidence suggests that long term intervention and vocational skill development can facilitate an escape from homelessness and support the transition of homeless persons into a worker role in the open labour market. Occupational therapists advocate for occupational justice in the lives of all individuals and therefore have a role to play in the intervention of the homeless who are experiencing disengagement in occupation, leading to a poor sense of well-being. The current study aims to describe and explore the experiences and perceptions of previously homeless individuals who escaped homelessness by means of a vocational skill development programme. The study explores the barriers and facilitators that the participants experienced in their change process and how the programme facilitated their adaptation to their worker role in the open labour market. A qualitative research design was employed to investigate the experiences and perceptions of ten participants who were purposively sampled. In addition, two occupational therapists were selected to participate as key informants. Written and informed consent was obtained and ethical standards were maintained throughout the study. The researcher collected data by recording semi-structured interviews, which were then transcribed. The transcribed information was analysed by use of thematic analysis, sorting the information into codes, categories and themes that emerged out of the findings. The themes looked at barriers experienced by the participants, facilitators experienced by the participants, motivational factors for engagement in the skill development programme and the usefulness of an occupational therapist as part of the intervention team. These themes were discussed, using the theory of Occupational Adaptation as well as the Trans-theoretical model of change. The researcher attempts to answer the objectives of the study by discussing the findings and themes that have emerged out of the data. Analysis of the findings suggest that if homeless persons are provided with vocational skill development, acceptance and support, mental health care and provision for sustenance needs, they can transition and adapt to a role in the open labour market and consequently experience an improvement in their sense of well-being. Occupational therapists are equipped to play an important role in the intervention of homelessness. Recommendations of the research focus on policy development, further research and intervention in homelessness. The researcher suggests that occupational therapy’s role in homelessness should be clearly defined and articulated. Research is also needed to prove the efficacy of long term development programmes as opposed to short term employment or training opportunities that may not prove to be sustainable.