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Can you help the homeless at Christmas

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: A National Spotlight, East, South East & London


Crisis logo

Crisis has begun its recruitment campaign for 10,000 volunteers to help run their homeless shelters between 23 and 30 December. This year's locations include London (various locations), Birmingham, Coventry, Newcastle, Edinburgh and South Wales.

Crisis at Christmas is a unique volunteering effort that provides immediate help for homeless people at a critical time of the year. By volunteering with Crisis this Christmas you can make a real difference to people experiencing homelessness.

Given the historically high demand for places, we recommend that you register by this Friday 20 December on the Crisis website if you are interested, particularly if you want to volunteer during typical daytime working hours.

It is reminded that all Civil Service staff have the opportunity to take at least 3 days of special paid leave each year to undertake volunteering - John Manzoni, CEO of the Civil Service has previously published a blog which encourages civil servants to use these days to volunteer. 

The blog also gives a special mention to Aleem Wallani a key volunteer at the Winter Rough Sleeper’s Centre,  you can hear from him in a separate Civil Service Local blog, where he shared his past experiences. 

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  1. Comment by Karen posted on

    Wish I'd known about this sooner. The places are all full near me. Maybe next year.

    • Replies to Karen>

      Comment by Ian Barton posted on

      Thanks for updating us, Karen. Which area is that? The places do fill up quickly; we will see what we can do to get earlier notice of these in future.

      • Replies to Ian Barton>

        Comment by Karen posted on

        Hi Ian,

        South Wales area. Thank you, it would be great to hear early on.

      • Replies to Ian Barton>

        Comment by Diane posted on

        I volunteered for Crisis for 4 years on the trot in London - loved it, very rewarding experience. But spaces do fill up fast They get released to be people who volunteered the previous year in early October and then to everyone else a couple of weeks later. If you don't get in fast then you're unlikely to get in for general volunteering. If you're handy in the kitchen it's worth doing you food safety certificate (level 2) as they always seem to be a bit short there and it's an amazing experience to be working in a commercial kitchen environment but be prepared to peel mountains of spuds and onions. 🙂

        I'm now in the South Wales area too and would love to help out again so will keep an eye for this in future.

  2. Comment by Simon Williams posted on

    Last year I volunteered at a homeless shelter working the night shift for a few nights. I approached Community 10K to see if I could claim this as "special volunteering leave" but I was told no as it was not in working hours. Is this still the case?

    • Replies to Simon Williams>

      Comment by Ian Barton posted on

      Thanks for your comment, Simon. Whilst we encourage take up of volunteering opportunities, individuals should always check with their home departments first to see if leave can be allowed to undertake the activity. Individual departmental policies on volunteering will always apply in the first instance, so I would check to see if the position is still the same this year within DWP. Best wishes.

      • Replies to Ian Barton>

        Comment by Simon Williams posted on

        Thank for your reply Ian. I suspect the answer will still be the same. However it didn't stop me volunteering in my own time last year and it will not this year as I have again offered to cover the Night Shift. A time when Homeless people are most vulnerable. Perhaps John Manzoni should be made aware of this.

  3. Comment by Diane Goodwin posted on

    In my experience working with Shelter's Cold Weather provisions - there is NO provision for volunteers to sleep whilst on shift.
    You may spend two hours standing outside - on guardian duty, followed by two hours cleaning the dishes, followed by two hours making tea/coffee providing snacks to other volunteers and sleepless guests.

    Then you may be on duty for another two hours of being available to chat with guests who are having difficulty getting to sleep or sleeping throughout the night, followed by two hours sorting through donated clothes, followed by two hours of cleaning toilets and showers.
    It's an incredible service to offer people who are homeless and I have done this off and on since 1990.
    It's an entirely different world when volunteering you must not bring your mobile phone with you for instance, and your presence and ability to respond to changing demands is required.

    All volunteers feel great after a shift - and special, knowing we have made a difference.

    But if you work the night shift from 9PM to 8AM at a homeless shelter I don't think you need to turn up at the office by 9AM for a business day as usual.

    This would be hazardous. Special volunteering leave ought to be considered.

    • Replies to Diane Goodwin>

      Comment by Ian posted on

      Thank you for sharing your experiences, Diane. I think this is hugely insightful and will help potential volunteers to understand the commitment that they will be making, and the impact that they can have on those who they are supporting. And yes, absolutely agree that special leave for the next working day should be an option for those who are volunteering to cover the night before. Once again, thank you for adding these comments.

      • Replies to Ian>

        Comment by Diane posted on

        Thank you for your response Ian
        In my experience the 10,000 volunteers are signed up in September each year.

        These includes masseurs, dentists, chefs, hairdressers, life coaches, podiatrists etc., as well as general volunteers for everything else.
        New volunteers will undertake an induction as there are legal requirements for running cold weather shelters and the risks are high.
        Volunteers are asked to commit to a minimum number of shifts to ensure the centre stays open.

        It is a VERY tightly organised event - the biggest volunteering event in Europe. Volunteers travel all over for it - Germany for example and even Canada.

        With so much logistics to cover including transport, security, health and safety - nothing is left to chance.

        I strongly encourage staff to volunteer for their preferred shift patterns - from early morning to afternoon lunch. Or from before lunch to after dinner. Or from dinner to breakfast. There’s plenty of variety in duties and there’s ALWAYS fun.