Homeless support worker: job description

Homeless support workers (often referred to as homelessness officers or homeless support officers) provide help for people who are homeless or who have housing problems.

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What does a homeless worker do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Support workers for the homeless have the power to make a huge difference to the lives of people who sleep rough or have housing problems. They provide practical support and guidance to their clients, help them with benefits and healthcare and create support plans.

In larger organisations, staff may be mostly office-based, whereas those working for smaller employers may have frequent contact with the homeless.

Typical responsibilities include:

  • assessing clients' needs and producing support plans
  • advising clients of their rights
  • collating and providing information on hostel vacancies and housing rights
  • maintaining accurate records such as reports and meetings minutes
  • making referrals to specialist organisations and services
  • planning and delivering workshops
  • liaising with appropriate voluntary and statutory agencies
  • raising awareness of homelessness
  • recruiting, training and managing employees and volunteers
  • applying for funding and managing budgets.

Typical employers of homeless workers

  • Charities and not-for-profit organisations
  • Local authorities
  • Housing associations

Vacancies are advertised on charities' and local authorities' websites, as well as specialist voluntary sector sites such as Third Sector and Charity Job.

Speculative applications are advisable, particularly for casual and contract work.

Qualifications and training required

You don't need a degree to become a homeless support worker, although some employers require you to have reached at least NVQ level 2 in your education. A proven commitment to the issues surrounding homelessness is more important than academic qualifications. Experience gained through voluntary work will strengthen your application, as will experience of working with vulnerable people.

Key skills for homeless workers

Homeless support workers need sensitivity and great communication skills to work with people who may have complex needs.

Other essential qualities and skills include:

  • organisation
  • numerical and IT skills
  • teamworking
  • administrative skills
  • willingness to work shifts and unsocial hours
  • resourcefulness
  • the ability to support and explain clearly – both for homeless people and volunteers/other workers
  • the ability to adapt working style to the needs of the situation.

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