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Where can I work with the homeless?

Where can I work with the homeless?

Would you like a career working with the homeless? You might be surprised by the number of jobs available, but you may need to begin your career as a volunteer.

If you’d like a career devoted to tackling homelessness, charities working in this field across the UK need employees to work in roles from outreach to PR. There are also jobs available with local councils or housing associations.

Jobs with charities | Jobs with councils | Work locations | Potential employers | Working life | Finding a job | Qualifications needed | Work experience | Skills needed | Applying | Salaries

Jobs with homelessness charities

Think about whether you might be better suited to a ‘front-line’ role, working directly with homeless people, or if you would prefer a head-office role, where you will be contributing to a wider effort to help the homeless community.

Here are some of the main job roles you could consider.

Outreach/support work

As an outreach worker or support worker, your job will involve working closely with individuals to help them find a route out of homelessness. You could be giving one-to-one support to homeless people in emergency shelters or you could be out on the streets providing rough sleepers with provisions and advice. You’ll also be working alongside other organisations and professionals to provide help with accommodation, finances, skills and employment, physical and mental health, drugs and alcohol, and legal services.

Fundraising

This role is about developing and promoting fundraising activities to support your charity’s strategy and raise as much money as possible. There are several different types of fundraising, including:

  • corporate fundraising – raising money from businesses
  • trust and statutory fundraising – bidding for trust and grant money
  • community and events fundraising – usually involving members of the public.

Policy, research and campaigns

Large charities operate in these areas to further their causes and influence the debate on homelessness. Your role could involve providing research, insights and analysis on key topics; preparing responses to government consultations; lobbying the government, MPs, MSPs and other relevant parties; and creating written content to support campaign messaging.

Marketing/communications/PR

You could find a job that spans these areas or focuses on one. Your role could include developing marketing campaigns to build relationships with supporters; producing leaflets and reports; writing content for the charity’s website and social media channels; writing thank you letters to donors; and handling press enquiries.

Other job roles

Homeless charities also need to hire people to keep things running day-to-day, including administrators, HR officers, finance professionals and volunteer coordinators. Browse the job vacancies on charities’ websites to get a feel for the full range of roles available.

If you have a degree in law, social work or psychology, your goal may be to work in the homelessness sector as a housing litigation solicitor, social worker or clinical psychologist. Some charities, such as Centrepoint, also have their own in-house health teams. You may need to qualify in your field and gain experience elsewhere before you can get some of these roles.

Jobs with local councils and housing associations

You could also work for your local council, Citizens Advice, a housing association or the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. You may find yourself assessing claims for housing; interviewing homeless people to discuss their housing situations; communicating with accommodation providers and homelessness charities; inspecting council and other temporary accommodation; carrying out follow-up visits with people you’ve rehoused; and developing the council’s strategies to tackle homelessness in your area.

The most common job titles are housing officer and homelessness prevention officer, but you may also come across advertised roles such as project officer, prevention and assessment officer, housing options officer or youth homelessness development officer.

Where in the UK can I work with the homeless?

You’re more likely to find work in areas with the highest levels of homelessness. These are typically larger towns and cities.

Unsurprisingly, you’ll find a lot of the jobs are in London, especially if you want an office-based role as most of the nationwide charities have their main offices in the capital.

However, there are also jobs in towns and cities such as Bath, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Manchester and Sheffield.

Potential employers

If you’d like to work for a local council, you can look at this A-Z list of councils.

If you’d rather work for a charity, there are several UK-wide homeless charities including:

  • Centrepoint
  • Crisis
  • Depaul
  • Emmaus
  • Shelter
  • St Mungo’s
  • The Big Issue Foundation.

There are also charities that tackle homelessness alongside other causes, such as YMCA and Only A Pavement Away.

Alternatively, you could search for smaller homeless charities that work in your city or county. Entry-level jobs with these charities may come up less frequently. Here are some examples by location:

  • Aberdeen – Aberdeen Cyrenians and The Foyer
  • Bath – Julian House
  • Birmingham – St Basils and Let’s Feed Brum
  • Brighton – The Clock Tower Sanctuary and Off The Fence
  • Bristol – Julian Trust, Help Bristol’s Homeless and Caring in Bristol
  • Bournemouth – Hope for Food
  • Cambridge – Jimmy’s Cambridge, Cambridge Cyrenians and Wintercomfort
  • Cardiff – The Wallich and Huggard
  • Coventry – Coventry Cyrenians
  • Derby – Padley Group
  • Edinburgh – Four Square and Fresh Start
  • Exeter – St Petrock’s
  • Glasgow – Simon Community Scotland
  • Hull – Doorstep of Hull
  • Leeds – Simon on the Streets
  • Leicester – The Bridge and Action Homeless
  • Lincoln – The Nomad Trust
  • Liverpool – The Whitechapel Centre
  • London – SPEAR, SHP (Single Homeless Project) and Look Ahead
  • Manchester – Booth Centre, Lifeshare and Barnabus
  • Newcastle – The People’s Kitchen
  • Norwich – St Martins
  • Nottingham – Emmanuel House
  • Oxford – Homeless Oxfordshire
  • Plymouth – PATH and Shekinah
  • Reading – Launchpad
  • Sheffield – Roundabout and Cathedral Archer Project.

What’s it like working with the homeless?

This will vary depending on your job role. An office-based role is likely to be standard nine-to-five hours, but a front-line role may well involve early starts, night shifts and weekend work.

If you’re working directly with people experiencing homelessness, you are likely to experience days that are emotionally demanding, stressful, exhausting or frustrating. You will need to be resilient and, importantly, able to switch off and keep your work separate from your personal life.

No matter your job role, though, this career path is undoubtedly rewarding – whether that’s receiving a thank you for all you’ve done as a support worker or securing the support of a new donor as a fundraising officer.

How to get a graduate job that tackles homelessness

There are entry-level jobs available. These aren’t specifically for graduates, but that doesn’t mean graduates shouldn’t apply.

You can find vacancies by looking on charities’ and councils’ websites. You can also browse the vacancies on Homeless Link, the national membership charity for organisations working directly with homeless people in the UK.

You may find that speculative applications are worthwhile, especially to small organisations that may only advertise jobs locally. If it’s not clear how an organisation recruits, get in touch and ask how and where they advertise their jobs.

There aren’t graduate schemes specifically for working with the homeless, although two schemes that could be of interest are:

  • The Charity Works 12-month graduate programme. Relevant partners of this programme include St Mungo’s, Single Homeless Project and plenty of local housing associations.
  • The Civil Service Fast Stream. Schemes include generalist, governmental statistical service and government social research. There’s no guarantee you will get to work on homelessness during the three- or four-year scheme, but it could be a good stepping stone.

What qualifications do I need to work with the homeless?

There are often no set qualifications to get an entry-level role in the homelessness sector. Depending on the role you want, qualifications in the following subjects may be particularly helpful:

  • business studies
  • education
  • finance
  • law
  • management
  • marketing
  • politics
  • psychology
  • public relations
  • social administration
  • social sciences
  • social work.

What experience will I need?

A proven commitment to the issues surrounding homelessness and your transferable skills are far more important than academic qualifications. You’ll find it helpful to build up relevant experience, often voluntary work or temporary paid work. Most charities advertise temporary paid vacancies and unpaid volunteering roles on their websites.

For some roles, getting experience isn’t just beneficial, but necessary. For outreach worker roles, you’ll almost always need experience of working with vulnerable people. For housing officer roles, you may well need experience of providing housing advice or support.

As a volunteer or temporary worker, you may have access to training courses and e-learning on topics such as safeguarding, boundaries and engaging with clients. On top of this, it’s common for volunteers and temporary workers to progress into permanent jobs with the same organisation.

If you’d like to find out more about the different volunteering roles you could consider, read our article on volunteering your way to a graduate job.

What skills will help me work with the homeless?

Different skills and qualities will be more important for different job roles, but those appreciated in all areas include organisation, resourcefulness and flexibility.

For anybody working closely with homeless individuals, invaluable skills include:

  • perceptiveness and the ability to think like your client
  • compassion and empathy – without pity or judgement
  • interpersonal and listening skills
  • patience and discretion
  • positivity and a sense of humour.

What’s the application process?

This will vary between organisations. For smaller employers, it’s likely to be an initial CV and covering letter and then a face-to-face interview. Larger employers might ask you to complete other stages. St Mungo’s often uses verbal and numerical reasoning tests, work-based exercises and practical activities, such as group work or role plays.

It’s highly likely the recruitment process be competency-based. Shelter asks you to complete a behaviour-based application form and provides more instructions about its competency-based assessment on its job adverts. Both Crisis and St Mungo’s ask you to complete a personal statement of sorts to give evidence of how you meet each of the points on the person specification in the job description.

What can I earn working with the homeless?

Volunteering roles will be unpaid, but once you get a permanent job, you won’t be working for free.

Salaries in the not-for-profit sector tend to be lower than in the private sector. Entry-level roles usually pay between £15,000 and £20,000. Salaries for more experienced roles tend to be between £20,000 and £45,000.

Those who progress to a senior or strategic role can earn much more than this. Centrepoint discloses that 12 of its executives receive a salary of over £60,000, including its chief executive whose salary is over £130,000.

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