Volunteering is officially good for you. According to a study carried out by the University of Wales, being a volunteer can help you to feel good about yourself and it can even lead to living a longer, healthier life. No Second Night Outhas a team of over 60 assessment hub and rough sleeping referral line volunteers who give up their precious free time on a regular basis to support us in our goal to end rough sleeping on the streets of London. Are those 60 or more people motivated to volunteer for the feel-good factor and a better shot at living to a ripe old age? It would be ridiculous to think that any of our volunteers give up their time in the hopes it will make them feel bad, but it’s also clear to us that our volunteers are driven by a whole range of things that aren’t in any way related to personal reward.
In fact, you could say that it’s the exact opposite; that it’s about our volunteers looking outside themselves. When we talk to potential new volunteers, almost without exception, they express a desire to use whatever skills and abilities they have to give back to their city and their community by helping people who are going through a tough time. And, in many ways, it doesn’t get much tougher than finding yourself at a point in your life where you believe you have nowhere to turn and no option but to try and make a bed for yourself on the streets.
But, for our volunteers it isn’t simply a case of just accepting the problem exists, many also want to understand why some people still suffer the misfortune of having to sleep rough. We’re all living through fairly austere times, but surely, in a city as rich as 21st century London rough sleeping shouldn’t have to happen, should it?
It was in response to this desire for knowledge and understanding that NSNO organised it’s first ever ‘Every Volunteer Counts’ evening on Tuesday 2nd October 2012. We wanted to give our volunteers, and the organisations which very generously support the work of NSNO, the opportunity to come together to learn more, not only about the impact of the NSNO project over the past 18 months, but also about how services have improved for rough sleepers over the past 30 years and about some of the other types of projects that are also trying the help those in greatest need. We also wanted to show our volunteers just how important they are to the work that we do.
Since April 2011 NSNO have helped over 1,500 people to exit rough sleeping in London. This would not have been achieved without the support of our volunteer team, who shoulder the burden of doing lots of the more general tasks in and around the assessment hubs. This leaves the project staff free to get on with the business of properly understanding each clients needs, then secure accommodation and also connect up with the services they might need to ensure they are able to remain there in the long term. Volunteers are also an extra support for the people who come to the hub; sometimes simply having a chat and a hot drink whilst staff work on their case helps people through a difficult time in their lives.
It goes without saying that, as a project, we appreciate and are humbled by the contribution every single one of our volunteers makes. Two volunteers who have been giving their time regularly since very early on in the project, Caroline and Elinor, explained why it is they volunteer at NSNO.
Written by Viv Griffiths, Rough Sleeping Referral Line Officer