Millions of people across the UK give up their time to help in their community. There are many reasons why people volunteer; it can give a sense of purpose, the opportunity to learn new skills, meet new people and overall improve wellbeing. At Depaul UK our volunteers make a huge difference to young people experiencing homelessness and we couldn’t move forward in our mission to end homelessness without their dedication. Last year alone, volunteers dedicated 2500 hours to Depaul UK – providing 230 young people with safe accommodation, and mentoring more than 100 young people.
There are many different ways you can volunteer your time. At Depaul we have volunteering opportunities that suit many different skills and interests. For our mentoring project, the mentors act as positive role models who support their mentee to work towards setting goals. Mentors are paired carefully with their mentees, and each pairing works differently. We ensure tailored support is provided to the mentee.
Julie has been a volunteer mentor with Depaul for just over 2 years, she shares her reasons for volunteering, “I think it’s just all about giving back. I’ve had quite a shiny life and that’s by pure luck. By other luck, people don’t have such a good start. These are really young people, that just with a bit of a chance and people that believe in them, might make all the difference.”
She added, “I absolutely love volunteering. Having gone from a job, that I loved but with a very heavy workload, to now be able to do things at a slower pace, where I can listen more and give more.”
Nightstop is our unique project which relies fully on volunteer hosts providing emergency accommodation for young people sleeping on the streets or in an unsafe place. Our volunteer drivers and chaperones will ensure these young people get to a place of safety.
Nicola was our first volunteer driver to transport a guest to their Nightstop placement in Milton Keynes. She said, “Driving for Nightstop fits round my other commitments perfectly. I am able to offer as much or as little time each week as fits round my life. The communication from the team at Nightstop is always fantastic and the ongoing training is so helpful.
“It’s so brilliant to be able to help people, when they are in immediate need, in such a practical way and my experience meeting the young people has been so positive.
“I would recommend volunteering for Nightstop to anyone who wants to get involved in a charity that offers immediate and practical support to young people in times of vulnerability. I feel very proud to be part of such a great organisation.”
Nightstop first began in 1987 in Leeds and has grown to become a network of more than 30 Nightstops services around the UK.
Having volunteer hosts means young people are not on the streets and it provides short-term safety whilst our staff work towards providing longer-term tailored support.
Claire, 63, has been volunteering with Nightstop since she retired. She explains what it means to be a host, “I provide a welcoming, warm and safe place, supper, a bed, shower, and breakfast for a young person who would otherwise be facing the streets and sleeping rough for the night.”
Lindsay and David are not only Nightstop hosts, but helped set up a new Nightstop service in Bury.
“We would recommend being a Nightstop volunteer to anyone who likes young people and has a room to spare. It’s a small thing for us to do, but the difference it makes to the younger generation is huge.”
Claire goes on to share the benefits of being a host with Nightstop and why others should do it:
“If someone was considering becoming a host I’d say go for it. It can take you outside your comfort zone since you’re welcoming a stranger into your home, but Nightstop staff do rigorous risk assessments that I trust. I also think that it’s much scarier for the young people I meet. I’ve found the experience very rewarding and I’ve really enjoyed meeting and talking to each of the young people.”
Helen is an administrative volunteer in our Sheffield office. She started out volunteering with Safe at Last until it merged into one of Depaul’s services. She shared her reasons for volunteering.
“I was ill and I was getting somewhat bored and climbing the walls and my friend said you could volunteer with us. She said she’d be delighted if I could even help out for 2 hours a week.
“The benefit is: young people not being homeless. It’s an absolutely fundamental human right isn’t it? How could you let anyone be homeless? A young person, who has the whole of their life ahead of them.”
Joanna has been volunteering with Depaul for 13 years in a number of different roles.
“I’ve done lots of different roles. The first role I did was mentor, so I had 3 or 4 different mentees over time. Then I joined group session work and now I’m an activities mentor at Depaul House. The young people are starting to engage more each week. I’m really pleased with how it’s progressing. It’s delivering activities – like taster sessions – and then also promoting the mentor service.
“I absolutely love Depaul, there’s no way in this world I’d go anywhere else. Never. Everybody, all the staff, are just so nice. I feel part of the team. Even though I’m a volunteer – I am part of the team.”
Whatever the reasons for being interested in volunteering, there is so much to be gained as a volunteer and much more you can provide to the people who need it most.
Find out about volunteering opportunities with Depaul.