Here we try to answer some of the most frequently asked questions from volunteers. If you have any additional questions, click here to email Greater Together Manchester.
What is the shelter about?
The shelter is a warm, welcoming environment where we treat the homeless people who stay with us as our guests. We aim to create a homely place, where guests can relax and feel safe.
Our guests are referred to us from the Booth Centre, where they go during the day to get help and support in finding accommodation and employment. They are assessed to ensure that they are at low risk of drug, alcohol and mental health problems.
Who can volunteer?
Anyone over the age of 18 of any faith or none, can volunteer at the shelter. No previous experience of working with homeless people is needed – just the ability to give our guests a warm welcome.
Younger people can support the Night Shelter by collecting donations or fundraising.
Where is the shelter held?
The shelter is held at a different church on each night of the week. These venues change often so we can’t always guarantee where they will be.
All the venues are within a few miles of the City Centre, and can be easily reached by public transport or walking.
What do volunteers do?
Volunteers at the shelter prepare the venue, welcome the guests, serve food and offer our guests conversation in a friendly environment. Some stay overnight, and others turn up first thing to serve breakfast and help clear up.
We also welcome volunteers who can:
- provide specific services at the shelters, for example teaching English or hairdressing;
- prepare food or do laundry for the project in their own homes;
- interpret for guests, or translate our documents into other languages (particularly Eastern European languages);
- collect donations from businesses and individuals (car required); or
- fundraise for the project.
What time are the shifts?
For volunteers at the shelter venues, the shift times are:
Evening: 5:30pm – 10:00pm
Eight evening volunteers prepare the venue (making beds, preparing food etc.) from 5.30-6.30. They welcome the guests, who arrive between 6.30-8pm, after which everyone eats together and spends the evening chatting, playing games and drinking tea and coffee (and doing the washing up!).
Overnight: 9:30pm – 6:30am
Four overnight volunteers sleep in shifts to make sure guests have a peaceful night. The Venue Coordinator and Project Coordinator are on call in case of emergency.
Morning: 6:00am – 9:30am
Volunteers serve and eat breakfast with the guests, who leave by 8.30am so that beds can be put away and the hall cleared.
What time commitment is expected of volunteers?
No matter what time commitment you can make, you can still volunteer for GMWNS. You can volunteer over the whole 6 month duration of the 2016/17 project, or only part of it.
Most of our pilot scheme volunteers preferred to make a regular weekly commitment, which enabled them to build relationships with guests and other volunteers over time. Some did one shift at a time, others came for an evening and night or night and morning, and a hardy few did a full evening, night and morning shift (5.30pm-9.30am).
However, we also had volunteers who did one shift a fortnight; who did a different shift each week to fit in with their work patterns; who just did occasional shifts; and who were available to fill in if other volunteers were absent.
What is required of volunteers?
All our volunteers are required to attend a training session (approximately 1½ hours, in the evening or day), and read an induction pack so that they are familiar with the shelter’s policies and guidelines. There is also the opportunity for volunteers to do more in-depth training at the Booth Centre, but this is not required.
At the start of each shift, volunteers are given a briefing by their Shift Manager to ensure that they are familiar with the venue, the guests, and their responsibilities. Volunteers are then expected to be able to:
- follow instructions from the Shift Manager and/or Venue Coordinator, and take responsibility for the tasks they have been given;
- follow shelter policies to ensure the safety and well-being of both guests and volunteers;
- respond calmly but quickly in an emergency, and use their judgement of when to call for help; and
- work together to create the welcoming atmosphere which is the aim of the GMWNS.