Do you or your utilities employees work in the field?
By the very nature of their duties, field workers sometimes interact with the homeless. Homelessness is a complex social issue that can elicit many emotions, but we recommend that field workers practice using empathy when engaging with the homeless.
Having empathy doesn’t mean you should ignore the threat that these interactions can pose to you, your team, or your work site, however.
Some homeless individuals can exhibit the following behaviors:
- Lack of ability to think clearly and understand complex situations
- Tendency to feel threatened, ignored, or demeaned
- Requests for financial or physical assistance
- A “short fuse” leading to violence
It’s important to avoid confrontations when interacting with the homeless, to maintain a safe distance, exercise caution, and not offer food or money. If you want to help them, it’s usually better to contribute to local charities, missions, food banks, or social service organizations.
When you can’t avoid interactions, follow these practices:
Don’t Judge – You have no idea what this person is dealing with or the conditions that brought them to this situation.
Be Kind – A smile or nod of recognition can set the tone for a better interaction or avoid a negative one altogether.
Remain Aware – Homeless people may interact in unexpected ways, so monitor their distance and movement.
Decline Requests for Help or Money – Decline apologetically and use a short but reasonable excuse for why you won’t comply. Examples include, “I’m sorry, I can’t right now, I have to work,” and “I’m sorry, I don’t have any cash on me today.”
Trust Your Instincts – If you feel the person is exhibiting mental instability, is aggressive, erratic, or threatening, do your best to avoid eye contact and leave the area. If necessary, contact your supervisor or call 911. DO NOT try to verbally de-escalate the situation. Verbal de-escalation techniques are not designed to respond to these types of threatening interactions.
TPOP Offers Workplace Violence E-Learning for Multiple Industries
Would you staff benefit from comprehensive workplace violence E-Learning that can be completed in an hour or less?
TPOP provides industry-specific training for:
- Office facilities
- Utilities and energy companies (in the field and in utility facilities)
- QSR and table service restaurants
- Food retail
- Commercial retail
- Healthcare facilities
- Mass gatherings and entertainment venues
- Houses of worship
Training topics include the Run, Hide, Fight methodology, situational awareness, verbal de-escalation, response to injury, and much more.
Let’s talk about your training needs today.