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What does a homeless shelter volunteer do?
Take a look at what it takes to be a homeless shelter volunteer, including cooking and serving food, preparing rooms and providing conversation with people who use these services.
Volunteering at a homeless shelter is an effective way of helping some of a community’s
most vulnerable people. Homeless shelters exist to provide a safe space for the homeless to sleep, shower and receive meals, at no cost to them.
Homeless shelters rely on the generosity of volunteers to function effectively, fulfilling a range of tasks. In this article we’ll focus on what is involved with being a homeless shelter volunteer including cooking and serving food, preparing rooms and providing conversation with people who use a homeless shelter’s services.
Why volunteer at a homeless shelter?
There are many circumstances that can lead to somebody becoming homeless. Homeless individuals may have been the victim of domestic violence and forced to flee their home, or they may have encountered financial issues and become unable to pay their rent. Another cause of homelessness can be when somebody leaves care, the military or prison, and doesn’t have a place to live.
Regardless of the reason behind somebody becoming homeless, it is extremely important that they have access to meals, a safe space to sleep and medical care if it is required.
Because homeless shelters usually operate on limited funding and resourcing, they rely on volunteers to deliver their service. By volunteering at a homeless shelter, you are helping people in need.
In addition to providing much needed support to ensure the homeless shelter can operate, there are also benefits to the volunteer. Volunteering can help with confidence, expanding social networks and skills development. For example, if you are interested in learning to cook on a tighter budget, volunteering in a homeless shelter can help develop this skill.
Homeless shelter volunteer activities
There's a wide range of opportunities for volunteers within homeless shelters. A good place to start when deciding how you can best help at a homeless shelter is to consider what skills you have, what skills you would like to develop and what you enjoy doing.
For short term or one-off homeless shelter volunteer work, you could help with some maintenance, gardening, a fundraising drive, or other special events.
If you are looking for longer-term volunteer work at a homeless shelter, you could get involved with cooking, preparing rooms or engaging with the homeless shelter visitors.
Cooking and serving food
Homeless shelters also often have a meal service available. Volunteers working in a homeless shelter kitchen help prepare ingredients, cook food and then serve it. Volunteers that work in the kitchen will also help clean up plates and cutlery from the dining area, and clean up the kitchen.
Sometimes, homeless shelters also prepare and deliver meals directly to homeless people on the streets. Volunteers assist by distributing food into containers then packing them for transport in line with food safety requirements. These food packages are then handed out to those who need them.
Rooms in a homeless shelter need to be maintained to a certain level of cleanliness. This includes making up beds with fresh bedding, cleaning floors and restocking toiletries. Volunteers can assist with all tasks that are required to have rooms ready to be occupied.
Providing conversation and stimulation
As well as a safe space to sleep, homeless shelters can act as a community center where homeless people can connect with others.
Volunteers can be the friendly face somebody needs to see to encourage them to strike up a conversation. Volunteers can also provide stimulation to homeless shelter visitors by engaging them in activities such as playing cards and listening to music.
How to find homeless shelter volunteer opportunities
Now that we looked at what volunteering at a homeless shelter involves, you may be wondering how you can find out about homeless shelter volunteer work opportunities.
The first step is to research what homeless shelters are in your community. They are usually managed by local charities, churches and other nonprofit organizations. You may want to visit them in person to share a copy of your resume and cover letter, explaining why you are interested in volunteering for them and what skills you have to offer. Alternatively, you can search for their website and contact them electronically to express your interest in volunteering.
There are some general volunteer websites that post volunteer opportunities across a broad range of areas. These opportunities can be filtered to search for one's specific to homeless shelters. In the United States, the VolunteerMatch website is a good place to start, while the website Shelter lists homeless shelter volunteer work opportunities across England. Similarly, Go Volunteer has a searchable database of homeless shelter volunteer opportunities across Australia.
Regardless of your skills, interests and available time, there is a volunteering role to suit you in a homeless shelter. Whether it be cooking, cleaning or engaging in conversation, volunteering at a homeless shelter benefits you, the shelter and most importantly, the person in need. Many nonprofits use volunteer websites to list volunteering opportunities online or you can also visit a shelter in person to let them know you would like to help. So, why not take a look at the websites mentioned above to find the homeless shelter volunteer opportunity that is perfect for you.
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