After working my way up the career ladder I was extremely fortunate in 2014 to be able to stop working and embark upon the next stage in my life. After training for and finishing a Lands End to John O’ Groats cycle challenge to mark my 50th Birthday, I found I missed the working environment more than I expected to! It was apparent that I had to find something to keep my mind busy, and to feel that I was using some of my accumulated knowledge and experience.
I had always felt that, as my elder sons went through their latter teenage years, if we hadn’t been there to manage their emotional rollercoaster rides and give them a safe place, they were only a small step away from the challenge of homelessness. Whilst at work my company had supported a number of local charities, I was vaguely aware of Doorway and followed Lisa on Twitter. I felt that the time was right to offer my support to Doorway in whatever way they saw fit.
I met with Lisa and started attending the volunteer sessions. Monday worked for me and I turned up ready to go. I expected to find a ‘soup kitchen’ type of world with homeless people queuing up outside waiting for a plate of baked beans and egg. Of course it was nothing like that at all. I also thought I’d left the world of ISO9001:2000 far behind – but I was immediately handed a comprehensive pack of policies and procedures and asked to sign in and lock my coat away.‘
Over the top’ I thought, but of course I was wrong there as well!
Lisa has an innate ability to work out where you feel at home and where you can be most useful in the operation. I have ended up being a mainstay on the door. A process that involves welcoming guests, writing things down, and in general smiling a lot and keeping everybody happy. Within seconds of a guest arriving your heart can jump as you see the progress they are making or can sink as you realise that they’ve taken two steps back again. We are there to immediately make them feel at ease and welcome. Once in the safe environment of the session there are other volunteers and staff far more capable than me who carry on the good work of making guests feel at ease and helping them out in whatever way we can.
So what have I learned? We provide a really safe environment for our guests to get basic support – food, clothes, shower, advice and a friendly social atmosphere. The control and procedures are all part of providing confidence for the guests in the environment. They also provide some structure and clear responsibilities for staff and volunteers alike. If they need help we help – either directly or by pointing them in the right direction.
As volunteers our main role is to maintain that safe, friendly environment. The Doorway staff are the experts, working more directly with the guests both in the sessions and during the week when the volunteers are not there. It’s a great organization and really makes a difference to peoples’ lives. I feel I am a valued part of the jigsaw puzzle within a friendly team of volunteers – and I love it