When No Second Night Out approached Crisis Volunteers for help I jumped at the chance and I was one of the first group of volunteers to work on the line. I have been a volunteer at Crisis for Christmas since moving to London 5 years ago. It helped me reconcile the fact that you simply can’t ‘spare change’ or buy a cup of tea for everyone you might see on the City’s streets. But I always slightly dreaded the New Year when the frustration and guilt would fill my stomach as I saw rough sleepers out with no Christmas comfort to protect from the cold and hunger of those deep winter days and didn’t know what I could do with my limited money and time to make a difference.
I am an active volunteer for a number of other organisations and I believe passionately that not only should you use any skills and time you can spare to help others but also that volunteering has enormous benefits in terms of meeting new people, developing skills and learning more the problems other people face.
It truly is a privilege to volunteer at a unique and innovative organisation like No Second Night out. Helpline volunteers help provide the first step on an individual’s journey out of homelessness and give the public a way to report a rough sleeper and that is extremely rewarding. And although dealing with emotional, confused and often desperate callers and their stories and problems is not easy it certain improves your ability to think quickly, problem solve and it does wonders for developing your communication skills!
The unique 24 hour rolling shift means that supporting every client is truly a team effort and I have learned so much from working with the professionals at the hub and in the outreach teams. Their determination to do their best for every client is inspirational.
The project works because it treats clients with dignity and care and as individuals and focuses on achieving the best possible outcome in their circumstances. Every clients experience’s and needs are different so working on the phoneline is never dull! One minute you are sharing a joke with a client who when asked for a physical description says he looks like ‘Johnny Depp’ and the next you are supporting someone terrified and in tears. You also get to see some of the best and worst of human nature: in the space of half an hour on my last shift I took a referral for someone made homeless by their own mother but was then able to call back a member of the public to tell them the stranger they had reported had just been brought into the hub by an outreach team- quite a lot to get your head around on a Monday night!
Shifts are action packed and even after a day at work the adrenalin means they never drag. When I leave I am always grateful that I have had the chance to be a tiny link in a chain to help someone get back on their feet again and my own ‘troubles’ are well and truly put into perspective for the week.
If you are still reading this and wondering if you should volunteer with NSNO the answer is YES you should.