Volunteering at No Second Night Out has continuously surprised me, as you can never know who you are going to meet or what situation you might face when taking a person’s details over the phone. I am currently at University so have volunteered a few shifts a week during my summer holidays. It has truly been an eye opening experience in such a positive way. The issues concerning homelessness are so often negatively portrayed and No Second Night Out is really starting to challenge those cemented stigmas.
The referral line is never the same. Every single time I come in, I have no idea whether there will be fifty callers or five. Everyone needs different advice, different questions to be asked and every story is unique. I spoke to a man who has been staying in his friends’ bedsit but had been told he could not stay there any longer. He had no option but to sleep rough and over the phone he was in need of an ear of support. For whatever reason, I have found people sometimes just want support through someone listening.
I spoke to one remarkable woman who had been working tirelessly to help a homeless Iraqi man who had been rough sleeping in her local park. His English wasn’t very good, but she had been consistently ringing different people to see how to help him in whatever way she could. Together we tried to work out the best solution for him and explained to him that his local outreach team would try and help as well. For me, that woman exemplified how much the public can do to try to help those who are rough sleeping.
There can be very hard phone calls from family members who are worried and frightened that their relatives are in danger. So many people my age ring up having nowhere to go, and it really highlights the concerns facing young people with regards to job opportunities and cuts to housing benefits.
I have met a variety of people when volunteering for the reconnections team. One of my tasks is helping clients on the internet look for rooms under certain housing benefit brackets. The amount of flats that accept housing benefits can be really small in a large majority of London areas, so it is sometimes hard to boost morale. Another task is helping move people into accommodation. I helped move a man to a London YMCA and he told me of how quickly his lifestyle spiralled into homelessness; firstly his job, then his house and it was only a matter of time before he found himself rough sleeping. He told me that his whole perspective on life had altered and that the YMCA was hopefully going to change his life for the better.
One of the best feelings I’ve found is chasing up someone’s details and finding out that they are being helped. You feel like since that first conversation, something you said was perhaps worthwhile and that whatever their past and background, they are now on their way to a brighter future.
It has been so challenging but also so rewarding, I have learnt something every single time I was presented with a new experience.