How I used my volunteer days to help the homeless...

Russell from INTO Manchester tells us all about using his two annual paid volunteer days to assist a homeless hostel over Christmas. 

Using INTO's two annual paid volunteering days to follow a cause close to their heart...

30 Jan 2018

2 days, 4 half days or 15 hours, to help a cause you care about

"In December I took advantage of the two annual paid volunteering days we are now provided by IUP as part of INTO Giving’s continued development.

I wanted to volunteer with homeless shelters in Manchester, in part to get a better understanding of the issue and try to learn more about the lives of people affected. 

I responded to requests from the Greater Manchester Winter Night Shelter (GMWNS) for shift volunteers. The GMWN runs from November to March and each night sets up 15 beds for guests referred from charities in the area. The shelter moves to a different location each night, churches, fire stations and sports halls. Volunteers help to provide food, set up beds and administer the various shifts that run from 6.30pm until 6.30am.

Liaising with my manager I arranged to work the evening and night shift on two occasions, using the volunteering days to recover from the night work.  Using the volunteering days in this way helped me to commit to a full shift during the week, which I otherwise would have been unable to do.

The experiences in the shelter themselves went a long way to helping me see the scope of homelessness in the city and understand the complexity of the issue. Many of the guests were employed and had found themselves without accommodation due to relationship breakdowns, rent hikes and the lack of affordable housing that is now a serious issue in the UK.  Others were long-term cases who had made steps to tackle other issues and were now getting closer to finding permanent accommodation.

It was good to be able to transfer my skills and experience working in student support to the role of a shift volunteer. Being able to talk to the shelter’s guests, build a rapport and be non-judgemental was key helping them feel like the shelter was their home, over time the guest started built up supportive friendships with other.

I volunteered for further shifts, either just for the evening or morning and then for Christmas I committed to Christmas Eve and Christmas night. This was particularly rewarding when one of the church vicars said if I had not been the second volunteer she would have had to do both shifts, in addition to her commitments to two churches over the holiday.

The shelter has already had some positive outcomes with, several guests, securing long-term accommodation. Others are still facing an uncertain future, with all the stress and difficult emotions that come with finding yourself without a home.

I would strongly recommend all IUP employees to use their two days each year, it is a fantastic opportunity provided by IUP. As the title of this piece suggests, if you negotiate with your line manager then how you use the two days could be more flexible than you think"

Russell Scott
Visa Compliance Officer
Manchester 

Russell is one of the first INTO employees to take up their option to take 2 paid volunteer days a year in order to work for a humanitarian cause. Choosing to work over Christmas really tugged at our heartstrings and we think shows the huge philanthropic efforts INTO Staff make, and we are proud that we are now able to support them in doing this. 

To find out more about how you can take your volunteer days and who you can do this with, visit our volunteering page