Charity groups Crisis and Housing Justice say that volunteering over the Christmas season and beyond can play a vital role in alleviating the problems of the capital's homeless and addressing key housing concerns.
Research by Crisis has highlighted the important role played by volunteers. From 2008 to 2009, 10,000 Crisis volunteers contributed the equivalent of £3.7 million worth of time to help transform homeless people’s lives.
Meanwhile,the churches' NGO, Housing Justice, estimates that last year alone, volunteers in London’s winter shelters gave 70,000 hours of their time at a value of around £715,000.
A new directory of volunteering opportunities across the homelessness sector, 'We Need You: Volunteer to tackle homelessness and change lives', has also been launched recently.
Leslie Morphy, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: “This time of year is when people think about giving something back and make resolutions for the New Year. Volunteering is a great way to do this. We rely on 10,000 volunteers giving up their time every year at Crisis, at Christmas and throughout the year. We know they transform the lives of homeless people with their dedication and generosity because we see it day in, day out. At the moment we particularly need volunteers who have a range of specialist skills”
Alastair Murray, Regions Co-ordinator at Housing Justice, commented: “Churches and faith groups are showing their commitment to tackling rough sleeping by organising caring responses at the local level, like shelters and drop-in centres. As well as being there for people in need, churches can mobilise people and resources in the community, helping to tackle poverty and other factors that can cause homelessness”
Jason Warriner, a senior nurse in sexual health & HIV, is one of those who volunteers for Crisis Christmas. He said: “Volunteering at Crisis is enjoyable, fun and challenging – you not only use your present skills and knowledge but also gain an insight into the health of homeless people and work in community settings that will enable you to develop your practice. No health problem is too big or too small.”
Crisis’ volunteering research also highlighted the difference volunteering made to people’s understanding of, and interest in, homelessness. Eight out of ten volunteers (83 per cent) said that volunteering increased their understanding of homelessness issues. Their experiences also prompted them to rethink their ideas about who homeless people are and about the causes of homelessness. In addition, over two in three volunteers (71 per cent) said that their sense that they could make a difference was increased.
The booklet 'We Need You: Volunteer to tackle homelessness and change lives' (http://www.housingjustice.org.uk/publications/temp/Volunteering%20direct...), by Crisis and Housing Justice gives a taster of some of the opportunities that are available to volunteer across the sector with a directory of over 10 organisations looking for volunteers.