Job descriptions and industry overviews

Homeless support worker: job description

21 Jun 2023, 15:38

Homeless support workers provide help and guidance for people who are homeless or who have housing problems.

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

Homeless support workers (also known as homelessness officers or housing support officers) provide practical support and guidance to their clients, help them access accommodation, benefits and healthcare, and create support plans. Some clients may be very vulnerable or have complex needs, such as addiction or health problems, and many are likely to require support from a number of organisations, including local authorities, housing associations and specialist health services.

Typical duties include:

  • assessing clients' needs and producing support plans
  • advising clients of their rights – for example, to benefits and healthcare
  • helping clients with paperwork, such as housing applications, and practical skills, such as cooking and budgeting
  • collating and providing information on housing vacancies and housing rights
  • maintaining accurate client records
  • making referrals to specialist organisations and services
  • visiting clients and maintaining professional, trusting relationships with them
  • assessing risks and ensuring clients’ accommodation is safe and secure
  • liaising with voluntary and statutory agencies
  • raising awareness of homelessness and the impact of insecure housing
  • recruiting, training and managing employees and volunteers
  • applying for funding and managing budgets.

Depending on the focus on the role, you could be mostly office-based – for example, if you’re involved in liaising with local authorities and health providers. If you work for a smaller organisation, you’re likely to have more client contact. If this is the case, you’re likely to need to work unsociable hours, including shifts with evening and weekend work, to ensure clients can access support when they need it.

In some roles, you’ll work with a specific client group, such as young people or refugees and asylum seekers.

Graduate salaries

Salaries for homeless support workers tend to start at around £18,000, according to Glassdoor, a job comparision site. Roles are often contract based or temporary as they are created in response to additional support needs.

Depending on the organisation you work for, you could also be entitled to bonuses.

Earnings will increase with experience. You could progress into a team manager role or specialist function (such as fundraising or volunteer management) with the experience you have built.

Typical employers of homeless workers

  • Charities and not-for-profit organisations
  • Local authorities
  • Housing associations
  • Hostels and specialist accommodation providers.

Vacancies are advertised on specialist job sites. You may also find them advertised locally – for example by recruitment agencies, councils for voluntary service and local newspapers’ jobs boards.

Some jobs are not advertised widely due to the costs involved. It’s worth sending speculative applications, 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 people in vulnerable housing situations and 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

Employers will be looking for:

  • sensitivity
  • great communication skills
  • 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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