Housing charity Shelter recently revealed that there are at least 320,000 homeless people in Britain, which includes rough sleepers and people in temporary accommodation.
In fact, this is likely to be an underestimate of the problem, as Shelter says it does not include people who experience “hidden” homelessness, such as sofa-surfers, and others living insecurely in sheds or cars, for example.
Despite government pledges to tackle the crisis, which includes the Homelessness Reduction Act, the latest figures amount to a year-on-year increase of 13,000, or a 4 per cent rise.
No matter whether it’s dealing with rough sleepers in retail environments or removing squatters from commercial premises, there’s a good chance that most security guards have come into contact with homeless people at some point in time.
However, taking an appropriate course of action isn’t always easy considering the circumstances. Feelings of empathy and guilt are bound to be front of mind for many security guards, but at the same time they still have a job to do.
In light of this, here’s a few tips on how to deal with homelessness as a security guard.
Observe before acting
Both retail spaces and commercial premises are often misused by homeless people, which can cause unease among shoppers and disruption for business owners. But there are instances when homeless people are extremely respectful of their environment, which is where caution should be exercised.
By observing before acting, security guards are able to not only proceed in an appropriate manner but also avoid discriminating against the individual(s).
Firm but fair
If the right course of action is to remove the homeless person or the guard has been instructed to do so, a firm but fair approach is advisable. Security guards should think of themselves as mediators who simply have a role to perform.
Under no circumstances should a security guard manhandle the homeless person. More often than not, polite yet professional persistence will result in a positive outcome.
As opposed to harshly stating that the homeless person should leave immediately, it often helps if the security guard explains the reasons why in a clear and concise manner.
In circumstances where there is a high chance of homelessness, the security guard may want to do some research about nearby shelters, support groups or rehabilitation centres in the local area.
Be wary of alcohol and drug users
Seeing as one of the most common deployments for security guards is door supervision at bars, pubs, and night clubs, they’re used to dealing with people under the influence of alcohol or drugs. However, for many homeless people, it has gone beyond recreational use and turned into something more serious.
Therefore, security guards should be prepared that some homeless people might not be able to make sense or process what is going on around them. If they react in a violent way, security guards should refrain from acting harshly, bearing in mind that alcohol and drug use is often a coping mechanism.