Alternative Title

Experiences of helping professionals in the homeless workforce

Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Study Type

Quantitative, Cross-sectional design


School for Social Work


Social work with the homeless, Homeless persons-Services for, Secondary traumatic stress, Social workers-Job satisfaction, Social workers-Psychology, Burn out (Psychology), Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, Compassion fatigue, Compassion satisfaction, Burnout, Boston, Workforce, Self care, Helping professionals


Homeless workforce staff perform their duties with clients for whom themes of crisis, suffering and distress are common. Such working conditions are characteristic of settings in which workers are vulnerable to workplace stress and burnout. Compassion for those we help can affect us in positive and negative ways. Using a cross-sectional design, 44 homeless workforce staff in one large agency completed a 87-item online questionnaire designed to examine burnout and secondary trauma and whether the personal characteristics of empathy and reactivity would be associated with improved workplace functioning (less burnout and greater job satisfaction). Contrary to our expectations, this sample had average levels of burnout and secondary traumatic stress, both falling in the 50th percentile. Professional satisfaction (CS)scores also fell in the 50th percentile. Recent work by Ferris et al. (2016) suggests that mission identification is a potent mediator of the potentially negative effects of difficult work environments. We found that personal characteristics of the worker may also impact stress scores and we recommend that both of these dimensions be included in future studies of this population. This study would not have been possible without the support of staff and administration of Boston Health Care for the Homeless. This organization, whose history and contributions to the care of homeless adults and families have set international standards for such programs, welcomed the study and promoted its completion.




v, 66 pages. M.S.W., Smith College School for Social, Northampton, Ma., 2016. Includes bibliographical references (pages 36-41)

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