Very little is known about the personal goals of homeless people and how these relate to their quality of life (QoL). By using survey data on 407 homeless adults upon entry to the social relief system in 2011, we examined the personal goals of homeless adults and the association between their perceived goal-related self-efficacy and their QoL. A hierarchical regression analysis was used to analyse the association between QoL and goal-related self-efficacy, relative to factors contributing to QoL, such as demographic characteristics, socioeconomic resources, health and service use. Results indicate that the majority of homeless adults had at least one personal goal for the coming 6 months and that most goals concerned housing and daily life (94.3%) and finances (83.6%). The QoL of homeless adults appeared to be lower in comparison with general population samples. General goal-related self-efficacy was positively related to QoL (β = 0.09, P = 0.042), independent of socioeconomic resources (i.e. income and housing), health and service use. The strongest predictors of QoL were psychological distress (β = −0.45, P < 0.001), income (β = 0.14, P = 0.002) and being institutionalised (β = 0.12, P = 0.004). In conclusion, the majority of homeless adults entering the social relief system have personal goals regarding socioeconomic resources and their goal-related self-efficacy is positively related to QoL. It is therefore important to take the personal goals of homeless people as the starting point of integrated service programmes and to promote their goal-related self-efficacy by strength-based interventions.