When we think of the homeless, a similar image may come to mind: a bedraggled individual, dressed in filthy rags, squatting on the sidewalk with a cardboard sign begging for change.

There’s a lot to unpack there to be sure, but the truth is that for every individual who “looks” homeless, there are dozens if not hundreds of others who don’t fit this stereotype. In fact, you may brush shoulders with them at the water cooler, never knowing they have no place to go once the workday ends.

They’re called the working homeless, and today it’s a growing epidemic that currently shows no signs of slowing down.

How to spot the working homeless

Management and executive staff may have difficulty spotting the working homeless. That’s because these employees tend to go to great lengths to conceal their plight, both out of shame and a desire to keep their jobs by any means necessary.

Their clothes may be clean but slightly rumpled; their hygiene may be acceptable but not stellar. They may take advantage of office snacks and freebies more than other employees.

Despite these clues, having their reality revealed can be a traumatic experience for a homeless employee. So, do so with compassion and care.

Providing help for working homeless in your organization

One of the greatest obstacles the working homeless face is their inability to qualify for safety net programs. Despite having no fixed address and living out of their vehicle or couch surfing, they often make too much money to qualify.

However, there are ways that managers or C-level executives can help.

One example is to create a company culture where it’s common for management to build positive relationships with non-management staff. Engaging regularly and being observant can go a long way in identifying individuals who may be in financial distress or facing impending homelessness.

Meanwhile, if your organization is profitable, consider raising wages or creating employee safety nets, such as employee funds, employee assistance programs, or payroll advance programs that can provide temporary relief for financial issues.

You can also recommend financial wellness programs aimed at strengthening workers’ financial resiliency. FEI Behavioral Health offers several. To learn more, check out our Training Catalog.

Employee homelessness is a serious issue that can have far-reaching effects for all concerned. By helping your employees access needed funds to find a place to live or prevent homelessness not only uplifts your employees but also safeguards your bottom line.