Insight: Winter Shelter Volunteer

Ever wondered what it is like to volunteer at Emmanuel House? We asked Marian Longley to tell us a bit about her experience volunteering at the Winter Shelter. Here’s what she had to say…

‘Thankfully, many of us do not have first-hand experience of homelessness, but we can perhaps somewhat imagine what a terrible situation this must be.  Although Emmanuel House is working throughout the year in serving the needs of homeless and vulnerable people, it is recognised that the winter period is when even more help is needed.

Their Nottingham Winter Shelters began in the winter of 2006-2007 to serve the needs of homeless and vulnerable people during the coldest months of the year, giving not only shelter, but acceptance, physical and emotional support and encouragement in making positive changes in their lives.  Anyone over the age of 18 years of age can access the services regardless of their personal characteristics or cultural identity. Since starting in November, the Winter Shelter 2017/18 has provided over 1400 nights of shelter for homeless adults in Nottingham and 30% of those clients accessing the service have already moved-on positively. This includes 16 people who have gone into supported accommodation and 11 people who have been set up in private rented accommodation.

Volunteers are essential to the Winter Shelter and I first became part of the volunteer team last year, feeling I could have a part to play in this very worthwhile work. It is necessary for volunteers to complete an application form, together with providing referees before any work can  be undertaken.  An initial training course is also provided, together with on-going support of the co-ordinators.

Church Halls in different parts of Nottingham are opened to the Winter Shelter on a month to month basis, i.e. one month at Lenton, moving to one month at Sneinton, moving to one month at The Meadows, one month at Clarendon Street, etc.

There are two groups of volunteers. One in the Shelter from 8pm – 10.30pm the other from 7.00am – 8.15am. On arrival, the evening volunteers:  Unpack and set up the Shelter,  prepare food i.e. soup and toasted sandwiches, serve  food and drinks, wash up and clear away and socialise with residents.  The morning volunteers prepare breakfasts (cereal, toast and drinks), wash up and clear away, help pack away the Shelter and ensure premises are clean and tidy ready for community activities later in the day.

As with many other forms of volunteering, it is not only what we give but what we gain and turning out on a cold winter’s morning or evening, I find, is a small price to pay for the rewards I reap.  Along with the practical services there are, of course, the rewards of meeting and socialising with the residents, together with meeting and enjoying the company of other possibly like-minded people.  How can it not be a win-win situation for volunteers?’

Marian Longley, Winter Shelter Volunteer.

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