Job responsibilities and the amount of contact with the homeless vary according to the size of employer: in larger organisations staff can be mostly office-based, whereas those working for smaller employers may have frequent contact with the homeless. Typical duties include:
- advising on benefits and financial difficulties
- creating and maintaining mailing lists and databases of services for the homeless
- updating and providing information on hostel vacancies and housing rights
- assessing clients for any statutory rights they have
- maintaining accurate records such as reports and meetings minutes
- making referrals
- planning and delivering workshops
- liaising with appropriate voluntary and statutory agencies
- handling correspondence and making telephone calls
- undertaking publicity tasks to promote awareness
- recruiting, training and managing employees and volunteers
- financial/accounts administration
- encouraging and organising fundraising
- liaising with volunteers/members of staff
Homeless workers are volunteers or paid employees of charitable and non-profit making organisations such as Crisis and Shelter.
Vacancies are advertised in newspapers and in specialist charity publications such as Charity Times and Third Sector, as well as their online equivalents. Vacancies are also advertised by careers services, by the Institute of Fundraising and by the website Community Care. Speculative applications are advisable, particularly for voluntary work, for which the Voluntary Agencies Directory and Charities Digest may be useful. Local charities and volunteer bureaux can often provide work experience placements.
There are routes into becoming a homeless worker for both graduates and school leavers.
For graduates, a degree in any subject is helpful for entry into the profession. Qualifications in finance, business studies, management, marketing, public relations or social administration could be particularly advantageous. However, a proven commitment to the issues surrounding homelessness is more important than academic qualifications. Applicants who can demonstrate that they possess the relevant skills through voluntary or paid work experience are the ones who will beat the competition to the top jobs.
To find out about other careers in charity work that you can get into via a school leaver route (eg an apprenticeship or school leaver programme) see the public sector section of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers.
- Good communication and interpersonal skills
- Numerical and IT skills
- Administrative skills