Those who volunteer at a service for homeless people can make an invaluable contribution and help homeless people to turn their lives around. Homeless people rely on volunteers as someone they can talk to and confide in and often find that volunteers are a source of inspiration as they encourage homeless people to think more positively about their lives and what they can do to improve themselves and their situation. Being a volunteer can also be a rewarding experience as through their services they can see the transformation in people’s lives and increase their understanding and knowledge about homelessness.
There are many opportunities in the United Kingdom for volunteers to help the homeless. Homeless UK is one organization based in London that is a resource for volunteers to find opportunities for helping in day centres and hostels and providing advice services for homeless people.
Shelter, the housing and homeless charity, works to lessen the stress that homelessness and bad housing can cause. It gives advice and information to the homeless and advocates for their needs by campaigning for change to end the crisis in housing. The organization lobbies local authorities and the government for new policies and laws so that the lives of the homeless and people living in bad housing can be improved. It also works with the housing sector to help develop solutions to the homeless predicament in housing. Volunteers are used to help the housing advice team, offer legal services for the homeless, run a service user group, organise activities and events and meet and assist people who come to Shelter for help.
Crisis is a national charity for single homeless people whose goal is to deliver life-changing services and campaign for change so as to end homelessness. Not only does the charity want to help as many people as it can across the United Kingdom and change their lives permanently but it also strives to educate society about the homeless and the way it thinks and acts towards them.
Homeless Link is a national charity for organisations that work with homeless people in London and throughout England. It provides information about services for homeless people such as hostels, day centres and other accommodations. It uses is volunteers to help in these facilities and to provide assistance with a wide range of tasks including cooking, making friends with the homeless, helping with the development of skills, administration work and fundraising.
The Passage, with a strong culture of volunteering, runs the largest day centre in London that is primarily run by volunteers. The Passage offers basic care such as food, clothing, and showers, health services, housing, education and training, individual assessment and advice, employment and outreach services and volunteers are busy in all facets of these services to help the homeless transform their lives.
The Big Issue is a magazine sold by homeless and long-term unemployed people. They can buy copies of it for £1.25 and then sell it for £2.50. Those who want to sell the magazine undergo training, learning how to pitch the magazine, and sign a code of conduct. They are then given a number of free copies to get started. In this way, they are working and given an opportunity to earn a legitimate income and to help them to help themselves.
The Big Issue was launched in 1991 and since then circulates 100,000 copies every week and last year put more than £5 million in the pockets of their vendors. The magazine also has a Foundation whose goal is to connect their vendors with needed support and other services.