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Careers Helping the Homeless

Homelessness affects hundreds of thousands of Americans every year, and that’s something we should all care about. Not having a place to live significantly impacts a person’s mental and physical health as well as communities at large. By working to end it, we can connect homeless individuals and families not only with permanent, affordable housing, but also with stable jobs and quality education. And while there are many ways you can help the homeless, from volunteering to simply donating old clothing or handing out food, choosing to dedicate your career to the cause will have the greatest impact. Keep reading to learn more about careers where you can make a real difference helping the homeless.

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Alyssa Kennedy
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Alyssa Kennedy



5 Alarming Facts About Homelessness in America


A total of 552,830 people experienced homelessness on a single night in 2018.


The number one cause of homelessness is not being able to find affordable housing.


Homelessness increased by 0.3% (1,834 people) between 2017 and 2018.


Shelters only have enough temporary beds for 70% of the homeless population.


24% of the homeless population is chronically homeless, meaning they’ve been homeless for at least a year or repeatedly.


National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty

National Alliance to End Homelessness

Career Paths Where You Can Help the Homeless

There are many ways you can help the homeless on a professional level. You can work directly with those experiencing homelessness by educating them, legally representing them, or treating their well-being. Counselors, social workers, teachers, nurses, and other professionals specialize in just that. Or you can work behind the scenes, working on policies that help the homeless or getting involved in urban planning that shelters them. Here are just some of the many career paths where you can help the homeless.

Social Work

If you’d like to help the homeless population in a very direct way, then you may want to consider a career in social work. In this field, you’ll be able to help those experiencing homelessness gain access to housing, food, education, jobs, and other resources they need to get off the streets. You can work with individuals or families, children or adults. There are even organizations like the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth and OutFront Minnesota that specialize in helping homeless teenagers get what they need to be safe and comfortable as they finish school and transition into adulthood. If this seems like a career path for you, consider getting a bachelor’s, master’s (MSW), or doctorate (DSW) degree in social work or start volunteering with your local homeless shelters or organizations.

Popular Careers Where You Can Make a Difference

Career 2018 Median Salary
Job Growth
Degree Path
Child, Family and School Social Workers $46,270 7.3% Social Work
Healthcare Social Workers $56,200 17% Social Work
Community and Social Services Managers $65,320 13% Social Work

Public Policy

Another way to help the homeless is by entering a career in public policy. This could mean becoming a legislator or representative in your area or becoming a political scientist who analyzes and writes about policies to promote change.

If you choose to get involved in politics, you could push for affordable housing like councilman Mitch O’Farrell did in Los Angeles. You could also work for organizations like the National Alliance to End Homelessness that are involved in advocating for a number of policies to get passed by Congress to help prevent and eliminate homelessness. Policies like Housing First that provide permanent housing to the homeless have already been effectively enacted, proving this is a great way to help this population.

If you want to get involved in public policy, check with your local homeless organizations to see what they’re already doing and ways to get involved. You may also benefit from studying political science at the college level and getting involved in your area’s politics and community however you can.

Popular Careers Where You Can Make a Difference

Career 2018 Median Salary
Job Growth
Degree Path
City Manager
$104,980 5.7% Public Administration
Legislator $24,670 5.2% Public Administration
Political Scientist / Policy Analyst $117,570 5.3% Master of Public Administration (MPA)

Teaching and Education

There are a lot of ways teachers can help students who are homeless, ranging from providing a list of community resources for the child or family to just being a good influence in their life. If you want to work in education but not in a teaching role, you can still help homeless youth succeed. There are many resources that schools and its administrators can offer homeless youth, including money for transportation, more leniency when the student’s grades are suffering, and providing adults for the kid to talk to about being homeless.

Popular Careers Where You Can Make a Difference

Career 2018 Median Salary
Job Growth
Degree Path
Kindergarten /Elementary School Teachers $33,970 6.4% Elementary Education
High School Teachers $60,320 4% Secondary Education
Special Education Teachers $59,780 3% Special Education
Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Teachers $53,630 -10% Education / Teaching
Career and Technical Education Teachers $56,750 -1% Education / Teaching
Elementary, Middle School and High School Principals $95,310 4% Master’s Degree in Education Administration
Education Doctorate Degree (Ed.D.)
Education Administrators (Elementary and High School) $90,060 5.7% Master’s Degree in Education Administration
Education Doctoral Degree (Ed.D.)

Direct Patient Care

Regardless of the hospital or medical facility, healthcare professionals often find themselves treating patients who are homeless in their day-to-day work. Medical professionals who want to be even more involved can offer their services to homeless organizations and shelters or working at shelters or rescue missions that have on-site clinics. You don’t even need to become a doctor to do this. Many nurses, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants help the homeless population get the care that they need. There are even doctors who treat the homeless on the streets. While you don’t have to go that far, there are always ways medical professionals can provide healthcare to the homeless.

Popular Careers Where You Can Make a Difference

Career 2018 Median Salary
Job Growth
Degree Path
Registered Nurse
$71,730 12.1% Associate of Science in Nursing (ADN)

Bachelor of Science Nursing (BSN)

Master of Nursing in Science (MSN)
Physician Assistant
$108,610 31% Master’s in Physician Assistant Studies

Doctor of Science in Physician Assistant Studies
Nurse Practitioner $107,030 28.2% Master of Science in Nursing

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Public Health

There are many ways you can help the homeless through a career in public health. You could teach the general population about the health risks and issues those experiencing homelessness face, which could inspire them to get involved with local homeless shelters and organizations. You could work with organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Psychological Association (APA) to educate the general public about the physical and mental health issues the homeless face. You could even help journalistically investigate the merits of homelessness being a public health issue. Each path has its own set of education and experience requirements, as well as earnings potential. Learn more about possible careers below.

Popular Careers Where You Can Make a Difference

Career 2018 Median Salary
Job Growth
Degree Path
$69,660 5% Master of Public Health (MPH)
Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)
Community Health Worker
$39,540 12.5% College degree not typically required
Medical and Health Services Manager $99,730 17.6% Master of Health Administration (MHA)
Health Educator $54,220 10.3% Bachelor’s Degree in Health Education

Criminal Justice

Every year, roughly 48,000 people entering homeless shelters are coming from jail or prison—almost directly going from being locked up to being homeless. In fact, as many as 15 percent of those in jail report having been homeless at some point in their lives. Pursuing a career in criminal justice is one way to address issues such as this. There are a many ways you can help the homeless through a career in criminal justice. For example, as a police sergeant, you could help en