Homeless Persons Officer

Councils have a statutory duty to give assistance and accommodation to certain groups of homeless people.  Homeless Persons Officers are involved in the process of providing homeless people with temporary accommodation and developing strategies to prevent homelessness wherever possible providing families with advice and information.

Work Environment
Homeless Persons Officers spend some of their time travelling within their area to interview homeless people living in temporary accommodation.  They spend the rest of their time working in council offices.  Hours of work are 37 per week but are flexible.  Some evening and weekend work is normally required, as it may be necessary to be on-call by telephone out of working hours on a rota basis.

Daily Activities
Homeless Persons Officers place homeless people in temporary accommodation. Some may have been evicted for non-payment of rent, for antisocial behaviour or simply following a disagreement with their landlord.  Others may have recently arrived in the area and have nowhere to live.  Homeless Persons Officers may be involved in a variety of different tasks when trying to house homeless people:

  • finding out why they have no home and if applicable, the reason for leaving their previous accommodation;
  • arranging temporary accommodation - in one of the council's own empty properties, in a hostel or in rented accommodation in the private sector such as a bed and breakfast establishment;
  • trying to find permanent accommodation by establishing the people's likely entitlement to accommodation, using a list of criteria drawn up by the council's housing department;
  • helping people to make an application for housing.

Emergency accommodation may be difficult to find - and not of the type that the homeless person is expecting.  Homeless Persons Officers have to be diplomatic in encouraging them to accept it or to be firm when explaining that there is no alternative.  They may also have to explain that permanent accommodation may not be available for some time due to large numbers of families on the housing waiting list.  Some of the homeless people that Homeless Persons Officers deal with may have mental health, drug-related or alcohol-induced problems and exhibit challenging behaviour, which means they must communicate sensitively with them.  If, out of normal working hours, they are notified (by social workers, police officers or voluntary workers) that someone has suddenly become homeless, they have to arrange temporary emergency accommodation.

Skills & Interests
It is essential to:

  • have excellent communicators skills with the ability to work with people who are in distress;
  • be able to help people without becoming judgmental;
  • be sympathetic yet fair;
  • be able to work on their own initiative;
  • be able to cope when under pressure.

Entry Requirements
Entry requirements may vary, but often, previous experience in a housing or  homelessness advice setting is desirable.  Councils may ask for a minimum of four GCSEs/S grades at C/3 or above.  Other requirements include:

  • must have or be working towards a relevant Housing qualification;
  • an awareness of the issues surrounding homelessness and experience of dealing with this client group;
  • relevant experience of the benefits systems, e.g. Housing Benefit, Welfare Benefits;
  • the ability to produce reports, meet deadlines and maintain statistical information and prioritise work;
  • to be computer literate with excellent communication and assertiveness skills;
  • a full driving licence.

Future Prospects & Opportunities
There may be opportunities to move into a more general housing related role.  It may be possible to progress to housing manager and also move into work such as benefits, employment advice or hostel management.

Further Information & Services
Asset Skills www.assetskills.org
Centrepoint www.centrepoint.org.uk
Chartered Institute of Housing www.cih.org
Crisis www.crisis.org.uk
Homeless Link  www.homeless.org.uk
Llamau www.llamau.org.uk

You may find further information about this area of work through Careers Wales (www.careerswales.com/) or in your local library, careers office or school careers library.

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