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With around 280,000 homeless people in the UK, providing support and care for the vulnerable is vital for the social care sector. Support workers help the homeless in several compelling ways, all of which can make a substantial difference to their health, wellbeing, opportunities and lives.

Choosing a career in homelessness support can also be highly varied, with many roles on offer.

Outreach care workers provide practical support or assistance at clinics or community facilities with hot meals, basic care, washing and referrals. There are also many administrative and coordination roles.

We’ll explain the key personal skills vital to be an excellent homeless support worker and what sort of tasks are involved in a day-to-day shift.

For more information about vacancies in homeless support work, please visit our online information hub.

Roles and Responsibilities in Homelessness Social Care

The exact responsibilities involved in supporting the homeless depend very much on your skills, placement, and the social care facility you’re working with.

Some of the typical tasks might include:

  • Engaging with homeless people, listening to their challenges, and guiding them through the process to get help. That can mean referrals to services or organisations.
  • Keeping records, such as reports and notes of meetings, and checking if a homeless person is getting the assistance they need as identified in their support plan.
  • Talking to clients and ensuring they know about their rights and the support services available in the local area.
  • Liaising with other agencies, such as local authority support teams or charitable organisations.
  • Providing hands-on help with tasks such as basic health checks, taking down information, staffing community hubs for homeless people to attend, or working with a specific person or caseload to help them progress.

Many of the essential homeless support work positions are administrative since a great deal of behind the scenes management is imperative to put the right resources in place.

For example, you could work as a project manager to coordinate local services from a range of providers or work as a housing support liaison to ensure homeless people have the choice to access safe accommodation.

Vital Skills to Work in Homeless Support Roles

There are three primary elements to all homeless support employers:

  1. Helping people who are at risk of becoming homeless.
  2. Supporting those who have already lost their homes.
  3. Assisting people who live on the streets.

The exact nature of the support must be individualised. For example, some people don’t wish to be re-housed but need assistance with accessing other services since this can be extremely challenging without a permanent address.

Others are in desperate need of primary medical care and may need care work interventions, followed by signposting to agencies that can provide further help.

Some homeless roles focus on raising awareness and tackling broader issues that contribute to homelessness, such as lack of suitable social housing or slow benefits payments leaving people in crisis. To work in the sector, there are a few necessary skills you’ll need.

Most employers don’t have any specific qualification requirements (although some support roles require an NVQ2 or above). Still, they will always be on the lookout for outstanding interpersonal skills that can make such a difference in the engagement you have with a homeless person.

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Qualities Employers Look for in Homeless Support Work Candidates

Here are the most important things to demonstrate:

  • Understanding: homeless people come from all walks of life and can have challenging experiences that require a great deal of empathy and compassion. They can also be heavily marginalised and need support from people who can listen without judgment and help where it is most needed.
  • Teamwork: no one person can solve homelessness, and multiple agencies typically work together to coordinate their resources and provide the best outcomes. You will typically be working in a team and will need to provide support and backup to colleagues.
  • Advocacy: many homeless clients feel unable to make their voice heard or don’t try to access services since they have been turned away before. You need to have confidence, skill, and practical knowledge to develop plans and advocate for that person’s rights to receive the assistance they require.
  • Responsiveness: again, it’s critical to remember that homeless people may have very different aspirations, and there is no one-size-fits-all response. You may need to think on your feet, solve a crisis, or encounter challenging behaviour, which requires fast reactions and making snap decisions to calm things down.
  • Collaboration: any person requiring social care support will have some level of vulnerability. As a social care worker in the homeless sector, the ideal outcome is to work with each client. A person who is empowered and can take control over some aspects of their situation will be best served, so collaborating, compromising and negotiating are essential skills.

As we can see, these characteristics aren’t about certifications or previous experience but are personality traits and qualities.

Interpersonal skills are essential in being a great homeless support worker.

How to Get Started in the Homeless Support Care Sector

Whether you’re an experienced social care worker and looking to side-step into homeless care or are new to the industry and passionate about supporting this demographic, there are a few ways to begin.

First, we’d recommend registering as a contractor with OUTT.com (it’s free!).

All social care candidates are eligible to apply for any vacancies or shifts they would like, with the only prerequisite that you have six months of experience in any previous care role – in any sector and for any employer or agency.

You can join our skills Academy at zero cost, progress through online training courses, and browse local shift vacancies to get a feel for the placements available.

There are multiple social care opportunities in homelessness support. Many employers require a great mindset and willingness to learn, so you won’t always need substantial experience to be an excellent fit for a new role.

Demonstrating those crucial skills we’ve mentioned is the best way to secure a rewarding placement in homeless support – and make the world a more inclusive place, one day at a time.