Who should attend?

The workshop is especially relevant for volunteers in churches and church-linked homelessness action projects, such as night shelters and drop in centres. The workshop has also been found useful by people new to working in the field, as well as clergy and concerned members of the public wishing to know more about homelessness. It was first provided to volunteers in church winter shelters in 2003 – 2004, and has been provided continuously since then. Previously it was called “Introduction to Homelessness”

The aim is not to make people into experts but to raise awareness of the issues and equip people to be more informed and work more safely, smartly and effectively.

Workshop contents and learning outcomes

Session 1 An Overview of Homelessness

A brief introduction to homelessness legislation, practice and context. Participants learn about the tests Local Authorities use to assess whether there is a duty to house homeless applicants, and what provision there is for people not considered in “priority need”

The session also touches on the different roles of the church and voluntary sector, including advocacy and campaigning.

Outcome: Participants gain a greater understanding of the context in which they are working, and the different organisations, both statutory and voluntary, providing services to people who are homeless. Their role in befriending and advocating on behalf of people who are homeless or vulnerable to homelessness is strengthened.

Session 2 Mental Health Awareness

This session includes definitions and characteristic symptoms of all the major mental health diagnoses, together with an introduction to the different models of treatment, and an overview of community mental health services for homeless people.

Outcome: Participants will gain a greater understanding of the main mental health problems and the services available for people in need of support

Session 3 Drugs and Alcohol Awareness

Participants will gain understanding of the main issues to be aware of in working with people who are dependent on alcohol and/or other substances. Participants will learn how to recognise illegal drugs and their paraphernalia, and know about the main groups of substances and their effects. Also covers the legal responsibilities of staff and volunteers. There is a strong emphasis on health and safety and good practice.

Session 4 Personal Safety This session starts from the recognition that service design, ethos, policies and guidelines, as well as some awareness of “conflict triggers” provide the best safeguards. The session offers basic guidelines and boundaries for safe and effective working with people using challenging behaviour, such as verbal aggression or the threat of physical violence.

Outcome:  The main learning outcome is that participants are able to work more safely and with a greater understanding of how to respond to verbal or physical violence.

Other outcomes Other learning outcomes from the training day are found in the fact that people share from their experiences and compare practice between their different projects and services. There is always a development aspect to this interaction, and a greater linking up and mutual recognition between smaller projects that otherwise tend to work in isolation.



Each session lasts approx 1 hour 15 minutes, as follows:

10.00-11.15          Overview

11.30-12.45          Mental Health


1.30-2.45              Drugs and Alcohol

3.00-4.00              Personal Safety


The main learning method employed is presentation and discussion using PowerPoint and flipchart. Questions and comments are encouraged. Trainers sometimes use role play although scope is limited due to the time constraints

Feedback from Participants

Feedback has always been extremely positive. There are inevitably some for whom the day does not have enough detail, and others who say the workshop tries to cover too much in one day. However, for the majority of participants the content and timings seem to be about right, especially as it is presented as an introductory day. Participants are encouraged to take up other training as appropriate


A charge is made to cover trainers’ fees, staff time and room hire. In 2017 this is £30 per person (Housing Justice Members) or £40 per person (non-members). This price has not been increased since 2012

Annual membership of Housing Justice includes 2 free places on the training day

The day can also be offered as a tailored in-house training day for churches or organisations with a large number of volunteers who would benefit. The cost of arranging such a day will depend upon factors like venue and trainers’ fees, as well as the cost of travel. Please enquire for further information. 

To make a booking  and for further information please contact:


T 020 3544 8094 (switchboard)

E [email protected]