Psychotherapy student, Ari* shares their experience of completing a clinical placement with St Mungo’s Psychotherapy service, LifeWorks

    Why did you apply for a placement with St Mungo’s?

    This is my first psychotherapy placement but I was intrigued by the opportunity to work with and help clients with complex needs and to support those who may not have the means to refer themselves to local services or community counselling services.

    Who are the clients you support?

    I support current and previous residents of St Mungo’s and other clients of St Mungo’s support services. Some people have experienced homelessness, others haven’t but have other support needs.

    Is your placement remote or in-person?

    I started my placement with St. Mungo’s during the pandemic. It was a funny time to start at LifeWorks as they had recently had to change their model from supporting clients in person to working remotely. Now restrictions have lifted, I’m starting to meet client’s in-person at a local hostel. I’m lucky that there is a fantastic hostel located nearby to me as my time is quite limited – it’s a great selling point that there are many hostels ran by St. Mungo’s all over the place, so there’s plenty of options for trainees.

    How have you found working in the hostel?

    My experience of the hostel has been great! I have a private room for my client sessions, staff are happy for me to reorganise the furniture and as the room is only accessible by staff I know we won’t have any interruptions. It is also reassuring knowing that after our sessions end the hostel staff are there to offer my clients ongoing support.
    I love working with my client’s in-person and have found the experience so rewarding.

    Have you felt supported during your placement?

    My LifeWorks supervisor is so supportive and they make sure I’m comfortable with every client referral I take on. We also have fortnightly clinical supervision which is run in small groups with one or two others and is psychodynamic orienteered. It’s helped my learning having a supervisor who knows the client group very well as I’ve really been able to explore my clients’ issues in depth and get a lot of insight.

    Have you had any challenges during your placement?

    It can be quite challenging to arrange sessions because of the chaotic nature of the some of the residents’ lives. However, if there was someone who wasn’t turning up repeatedly, my supervisor helped me put boundaries in place so that it wouldn’t go on too long. It didn’t take long for me to build client relationships and I now have three clients who I see regularly.

    What do you enjoy most about your St Mungo’s LifeWorks placement?

    My placement with St. Mungo’s has allowed me to gain experience with clients with complex needs. I’ve had the same clients since the beginning which is something that I really value about my placement. It’s rare for a placement to be so open-ended so I like that I can work with my supervisor and client to agree when to finish our sessions. Another thing I value is that LifeWorks will support people who are in active addiction. This is unique as a lot of therapy/psychological organisations will only offer help to those who are abstinent.

    Would you like to do a clinical placement or gain work experience with St Mungos?

    Check out our current volunteering opportunities or get in touch with studentplacements@mungos.org

    Karl’s Volunteering Story

    Karl has been volunteering with StreetLink, a service that helps connect people who are sleeping rough with local services available to them, since October 2021.

    Here he shares his motivations to volunteer, his experience with StreetLink and the importance of this vital volunteer-led service.

    Street homelessness is a very precarious situation and an increasingly pressing social justice issue. Unfortunately, it has become very common in the UK, to the point of being normalised in many parts of the country.

    I decided to volunteer with StreetLink because I wanted to support people who are experiencing street homelessness and I liked that StreetLink had a wide reach, offering support to people across the country.
    Every day StreetLink receives many calls and web alerts, and the team (made up of staff and volunteers) help to connect clients to support services so they can get further help to address their housing and welfare situation.

    I volunteer once a week for 2 hours, from St Mungo’s head office near Tower Bridge. When I arrive, there is always a staff member there to welcome me and get me settled in – which really helps you to feel a part of the team.

     

    “The most memorable call I have taken was a caller who told me that this was the first time they could remember being spoken to like a human being”

     

    The calls I take can vary from shorter calls where a member of the public wants some information about local services to longer calls where someone is reporting a sleep site – in which case very specific details about the location and person’s appearance are taken to pass on to local outreach teams.
    More challenging calls can sadly come from people who are distressed or experiencing a mental health crisis. Sometimes, a person will need a more urgent response than StreetLink can provide, so we would refer them to their local authority via what is known as a safeguarding concern. On other occasions we’ve had to call an ambulance to do a more urgent assessment. These calls are very difficult for the person calling in, so as a volunteer I make sure to stay calm and use the support of staff where needed.
    Every call you take with StreetLink is memorable in its own way and every experience of homelessness is important.

     

    “City life can be anonymous but these calls show that people still care about their fellow citizens who are struggling.”

     

    In the middle of winter, and on particularly colder nights, it’s very touching to receive calls from members of the public who have spotted someone that appears at risk.Often people will stop to check the person is ok so we can speak to the person via their phone or passing the person’s number on to us. City life can be anonymous but these calls show that people still care about their fellow citizens who are struggling.

    The most memorable call I have taken was a caller who told me that this was the first time they could remember being spoken to like a human being. This was incredibly moving and important – respect and kindness are so basic, but are often lacking. These moments of human connection – supporting people who are struggling and helping them to navigate the system – are so significant for each person who calls.

    I would definitely encourage anyone who has the time and motivation to support people sleeping rough to volunteer with StreetLink. As an individual, St Mungo’s mission to end homelessness can feel difficult to achieve (especially when you look at the volume of calls StreetLink are receiving). However, from my experience, the impact of treating people with respect, helping them to navigate a complex system and access help quicker, will help you to feel like you are contributing towards those broader social justice aims and taking a step closer towards making them real.

    Want to volunteer? Find our current volunteering opportunities here.

    Jeremy and Wendy share their experience of volunteering with First Response

    Jeremy and Wendy have been volunteering with First Response, a service that helps the outreach team find people who are sleeping rough quicker, since March 2022.
    Here they share their motivations for volunteering and how they have found their first couple of months.

    Jeremy’s story:

    In my day job, I work with vulnerable adults in supported housing. I’ve heard so many stories from these adults about their experiences rough sleeping in the past, and it is so visible to see all around on the streets of London.

    London is supposed to be such an affluent place, yet it has one of the biggest problems with homelessness. I decided that I wanted to be involved in work that is directly aimed at trying to get people experiencing homelessness off the streets and safe, and First Response is that.

    “For anyone thinking about volunteering with First Response, I would definitely say give it a try.”

    Outreach workers spend so much time and effort in looking for people experiencing homelessness. As a First Responder, I can help filter out who needs the help, which makes the outreach workers role slightly easier. So many people that are experiencing homelessness do not know where or how to get help for their situation or how to access services.

    A First Responders role is the first step in that individual receiving help. There are times when I have not found anyone throughout the whole shift and it can be disheartening at times. I always remember that when no one is found it can be a positive, as it means less time is wasted and the Outreach Workers can spend their time going to and finding the individuals that are out and experiencing homelessness that night. So even when I feel like my contribution doesn’t count, I’m reminded that it does.

    “My role does make a difference. It may be seen as a small contribution, but if a lot of people contribute small that then grows into something big.”

    For anyone thinking about volunteering with First Response, I would definitely say give it a try. The whole team are so helpful, and I was coached through the whole process. If you are an individual that is looking at practical ways to help people experiencing homelessness, I would recommend First Response. My role does make a difference. It may be seen as a small contribution, but if a lot of people contribute small that then grows into something big.

    Wendy’s story:

    I decided to join First Response as I had set myself a new year’s resolution to do something for my community. Homelessness is a huge problem in London and when I found out that St Mungo’s had open applications and offered training and support for this work, I decided to apply.

    On my first shift, I went out with another volunteer who was new. The shift went surprisingly smoothly as the training beforehand had been comprehensive, covering all the questions we might otherwise have had. Unfortunately my first shift, in February, was on the coldest night of the year, but I still enjoyed meeting my shift partner, and all of the St Mungo’s team were really supportive.

    “I think that going out as a First Response volunteer has been eye opening and a good way to help end homelessness.”

    I have now been out on 4 First Response shifts. On my 3rd shift, I was sent an email letting me know how many people sleeping rough that my partner and I had found were subsequently seen by the Outreach team. It was very motivating to know people were getting support.

    As I am relatively new to this work, I don’t think I know enough to comment on what else could be done to end homelessness yet. However, I really hope that the time between them first being reported to St Mungo’s and their access to support services can be as short a time as possible. Of course, it is upsetting to see the poor physical and mental state of some of the people rough sleeping, particularly on cold nights.

    I would definitely recommend volunteering with First Response. The training and support provided by St Mungo’s is excellent. On a personal level, I have enjoyed meeting the other volunteers when out on a shift. My shift partners have all been curious about doing further training and becoming part of the Outreach team. I think that going out as a First Response volunteer has been eye opening and a good way to help end homelessness.

    Could you Volunteer?

    View our current volunteering opportunities here.

    Crystal’s Volunteering Story

    Crystal has been a Communications Volunteer with the Volunteer Services team since July 2021.

    Here she shares how she’s increasing the visibility of our inspiring volunteers as well as discussing some of the exciting events we have lined up for this Volunteers Week!

    What inspired you to volunteer?

    I’ve been volunteering with St Mungo’s on and off since the start of the pandemic. I started volunteering at the Emergency Hotels when I was on furlough, and loved it! The experience opened my eyes and showed me how caring and committed St Mungo’s are as an organisation, not only to their clients but their volunteers too.

    After my time at the Hotels ended, I applied to become a Communications Volunteer to use my experience in the marketing sector to help drive the growth of our online volunteer community. I have always been an advocate for social justice and believe communications can be used to drive this social purpose.

    Tell us more about your role?

    My daily tasks include writing and scheduling posts for the Volunteer Facebook page, interviewing and writing up case studies for the St Mungo’s blog, and working on the volunteer recruitment campaigns.

    I really enjoy hearing volunteer’s stories when I interview them. It’s amazing to chat to people who are just as passionate about the organisation’s mission as I am and to learn about their various roles – everything from gardening to psychotherapy volunteers.

     

    “I have always been an advocate for social justice and believe communications can be used to drive this social purpose.”

     

    I especially love hearing from volunteers who have moved into employment through our Volunteer Development Pathway. Their stories are always so inspiring and really highlight the dedication and support the Volunteers Services team provide.

    What’s been your favourite project so far?

    I love that I get to connect with so many different people across the organisation but my most recent project has definitely been my favourite so far!

    For Volunteers Week, I have helped to organise a Webinar talk with Kerri Douglas, an ex-client of St Mungo’s and author of ‘From Gutter to Glory’. On Tuesday 7th of June, Kerri will be joining us to talk about her experiences of homelessness and the impact volunteer relationships had on her recovery. She is such an inspiring person who is always open to talk about her experiences. I know volunteers and staff will find so much value in her talk

    Any hopes for the future?

    I would love for the volunteer’s online platforms to grow even more and for all of us to engage with each other more. Meeting like-minded people and talking about each other’s volunteer roles can open so many opportunities and give people a sense of community they might not have had before.

    I would also love to do more in-person meet ups with the rest of the volunteers. I’m so looking forward to Volunteers’ Week this year and will be attending our in-person London event as well as Kerri’s webinar, so if you’re a fellow volunteer then please don’t be shy – come and say hello!

    Find our current volunteering opportunities here.

    Thank you to our Hackney Half runners!

    Despite the hot weather, our St Mungo’s runners smashed the Hackney Half Marathon last week running an incredible 13.1 miles and raising over £10,000.

    It was amazing to have almost forty runners for St Mungo’s. Thank you, for joining us in our vision that everyone has a place to call home and can fulfil their hopes and ambitions. The money you raised could help to transform the lives of people experiencing homelessness.

    We loved cheering you on every step of the way and hope you enjoyed running too!

    After the race we were lucky to catch up with Sian, who ran for St Mungo’s and shared her experience of completing her first half marathon with us:

    How did you find the race?

    “I loved it. I didn’t realise how much I would enjoy it. It was very difficult but I paced myself and then sprinted towards the end. It was difficult but amazing!”

    Why did you run for St Mungo’s?

    “I live in Brixton and I see a lot of homelessness around all the time. I just feel it’s a basic human necessity to have a roof over your head and a place to call home. So, I wanted to do my part and raise some money for it, that’s why I chose St Mungo’s.”

     

    Thank you to Sian and to all our runners. We can’t wait again for next year’s race.


    Were you inspired? Get in before spaces close! Sign up for next year’s race on Sunday 21 May here.

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