Available studies on the accountability relation between social work and the government are mainly conducted in Anglo‐Saxion countries. This limits the generalizability of these findings to other countries. Moreover, these studies hardly descent to the street‐level, making the perceptions and actions of social workers barely visible. To address this gap, this article explores how three elements of governance interact with street‐level accountability of social workers in homeless care in three country cases (the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany). The data (N26) was gathered by means of a mixed method design (interviews, focus groups and document analysis). By combining a street‐level bureaucracy research approach with a relational definition of accountability, we opened up the black box of what happens in these organizations and bridged the gap between macro‐level mechanisms and street‐level accountability. Our study adds three important insights to street‐level research of accountability in social work. First, elements of governance cannot be studied in isolation. Mechanisms should always be explained in relation to the context in which they are embedded. Second, the social workers in our cases do not perceive their accountability to the government as a professional obligation. They see it as a strategic mechanism to secure funding. Third, interaction is an important condition for the engagement of the social workers in their accountability relation with the government. More research is needed to develop a multi‐level theory that identifies which mechanisms play a role in the accountability relation between the government and social workers.