How St Mungo’s Supports Women

    16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual United Nations campaign that runs from 25 November to 10 December, and this year’s theme is UNITE! Activism to end violence against women and girls.

    In this blog, we look at the services provided by St Mungo’s to support women experiencing homelessness and hear from Michelle Chapman, one of our Domestic Abuse Navigators, about her work.

    The experience of homelessness can vary greatly between men and women. The heightened risk of domestic abuse and sexual violence against women can act as both a potential cause and effect of homelessness, and from the women we support at St Mungo’s, we know that safety is often their most crucial concern.

    As a survivor of abuse herself, Michelle understands the impact that this can have:

    “Being a survivor and working with survivors to me is the ultimate privilege. I see the strength that they have to survive on the streets. They have survived before I knew them and always managed, no matter how hard it is.

    But I also see a fragility in them that’s hidden behind those harsh exteriors and the ravages of a life that some of us can only imagine. The fragility extends to everyone who is in a situation that is beyond their control, whether it is because of their mental health or just the trials of life.”

    At St Mungo’s we provide women-only services and spaces to prevent women being re-traumatised by accessing support with male clients, particularly if they have experienced violence or abuse from a male perpetrator. We believe that women in all areas should have the choice to access mixed or women-only services and spaces based on their safety and preference.

    Health problems are also a major issue, and the average age of death for a woman sleeping rough is just 43. Both women and men alike who are experiencing homelessness are at high risk of physical health problems and are often exposed to further harm from smoking, substance use, poor diet and dangerous living conditions.

    “Some of the girls I support may have addictions and seek to get ‘their fix’ early in the day. Drugs briefly remove them from the harsh realities of life to that comfortable place they call normality.”

    Women who experiencing homelessness also have the same physical health concerns as women in the general population, but these are less commonly considered within homelessness services. For example, it is essential that women experiencing homelessness still have access to early detection and screening services, including cervical smear testing and breast cancer screening, as well as age-related health checks.

    At St Mungo’s, our colleagues never give up on the people we support. Frontline workers like Michelle spend a great deal of time building trust and working with women to create practical and personal strategies, helping them to move away from the streets safely, and working with them alongside service-based staff throughout the process to ensure a real recovery from homelessness.

    “Today’s a good day and one of the women who doesn’t normally engage with me is eager to talk. Normally I am chasing for this but I have found that leaving a message on a note card is the magic key to start a conversation. It’s brief, but nonetheless we chatted. The foundations for future meetings are there and this makes me smile.

    I wonder how the world sees these girls. The judgements are always hiding under the surface and I wonder if they knew their stories if they would they feel any different. The nature of the job means that frustrations constantly play with my emotions, as no matter what we do it never feels like it is enough. But the reality is that we are all doing something and we will continue to support these women, no matter what.”

    If you’re concerned about someone you’ve seen sleeping rough, please contact StreetLink to refer an individual to local homelessness support services.

     

    What UK Disability History Month means to me.

    Anna, our Locality and Community Engagement Coordinator shares what UK Disability History Month means to her.

    To me, UK Disability History Month is special, because it places a spotlight on disabled people that live and thrive in both their professional and personal lives despite how their disability might affect them. It’s a month where the creativity and achievements of people with disabilities are celebrated. It is also a unique time where we can challenge ableism and help achieve even greater equality.

    I have Multiple Sclerosis (MS). MS is a complex type of disability. The reason why I have it is because my immune system is not working properly. It’s a condition that affects my spine and brain. With MS, your immune system, which would normally help to fight off infections, mistakes myelin for a foreign body and attacks it. This damages the myelin and strips it from the nerve fibres, either slightly or completely, leaving scars known as lesions. This type of damage disrupts the messages that travel along nerve fibres.
    The specific symptoms that appear depend on which part of your central nervous system has been affected, and the job of the damaged nerve.

    Symptoms could vary and they are different for everyone. They could be issues related to your vision, balance, emotions, memory or thinking.

    When I joined St Mungo’s I also joined their Disability Action Network. I am keen to raise awareness on non-visible disabilities. Visibly, if you bump into me at our service or on the street, you will not realize that I am disabled. People associate disability with visible elements, such as a wheelchair, a missing limb, a walking stick, or a white cane, but not only people with visible disabilities are disabled. There is so much more than that to being disabled.

    St Mungo’s has been great in supporting me with my disability. I have felt empowered and included during my time with the organisation. I think in order to support diversity and inclusion at work, we must always look out for our unconscious biases and make sure that the organisation and its staff make it easy for all employees to participate in all activities. We need to always make sure that policies are frequently revised and improved to make sure that every employee and client is appreciated and represented in all of them.

    This might sound a cliché but I love everything about my job. I live close to where I work so I enjoy combining my love for the local community with my dedication to St Mungo’s values and ethos.

    The purpose of my role is to enhance and develop the working practices and culture between all the services in the local area. I work closely with people who have experienced homelessness, our colleagues who work in services and the local community to improve engagement. At the same time, I aim to galvanize support for St Mungo’s goal that everyone should have a home and should be able to fulfil their hopes and ambitions.

    16 Days of Activism

    Each year, St Mungo’s marks the 16 Days of Activism on domestic abuse and gender based violence, starting on 25 November with the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and ending on 10 December with Human Rights Day. Jill Thursby, Women and Domestic Abuse Matrix Lead, explains how homelessness and domestic abuse are linked and how St Mungo’s is taking action.

    As Women and Domestic Abuse Matrix lead, my role is to improve things for St Mungo’s women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

    We know from our work that the causes, experiences and solutions for homelessness are different for women. In particular, women carry the added burden of gender-based violence, which can be both a cause and a consequence of homelessness.

    A safe and secure home is the first step to recovery, so we must do all we can to keep women safe from abuse. That’s why we’ve recognised that our biggest challenge is creating an environment of physical and psychological safety for our female clients. Women face disproportionate risk of harm from people they love and trust as well as the dangers of homelessness. We know that expecting women to thrive in traditional, male-dominated homelessness services is not good enough.

    Hidden Homelessness

    Research commissioned from the University of York highlights the hidden harm of women sleeping rough. Women on the streets are exposed to frightening risks of sexual harassment, abuse and violence, but hiding from harm can also mean that women are hidden from help.

    The 16 Days give us the chance to us to bring the issue of women’s hidden homelessness to light. Across the organisation, we’ll be having honest conversations about abuse and, relationships and connecting people with specialist support.

    St Mungo’s was proud to be a part of the recent London Women’s Rough Sleeping Census, aiming to better capture data about the extent of women’s rough sleeping. Findings from the census will not only evidence need, but also inform future provision.

    The United Nations’ themes for this year’s campaign is UNiTE! Activism to end violence against women and girls. We must make sure that the global movement against harassment and abuse also reaches women who are homeless and hidden. We need action in government and in homelessness services to ensure that the needs of women experiencing homelessness are met.

    If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, you can contact a specialist organisation for support:
    National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247
    National LGBT+ Helpline: 0800 999 5428
    Men’s Advice Line: 0808 801 0327

    Providing support to people experiencing homelessness in our rapid response service

    In this blog, Sophie, No Second Night Out (NSNO) Manager shares how our rapid response service, NSNO is helping people to have their last night on the streets.

    Our NSNO service has changed a lot in the last few years through the covid-19 pandemic. We moved from ‘shared space’ assessment hubs which allowed 25 people a safe place to sleep to a different model. Now, we operate with Assessment Hubs; three of these working with people from all over London who have been sleeping rough.

    People who have been sleeping rough are brought into one of the three hubs by outreach teams. There they are greeted by Assessment and Reconnection Workers who conduct a thorough assessment of their circumstances and what led to their rough sleeping. They then use this to formulate a plan to help them in their recovery from homelessness and move them into safe and secure appropriate accommodation.

    In addition to the hubs, we have four ‘Staging Posts’ and are still operating a large hotel in Waterloo. In total we have 233 beds; 25 of these are for people with complex immigration cases and who have no recourse to public funds.

    People are referred from the hubs into these ‘staging posts’ so that they can have a private room whilst we continue to support them in their recovery. We aim to move people in these hubs into accommodation within six weeks. As well as providing warmth, safety and respite from the dangers of rough sleeping, it allows us to work quickly to resolve their homelessness and to understand the support they need to feel empowered and involved in their established move on plans. It’s amazing to be able to work with people and see the difference having privacy and space after days, weeks, months or sometimes even years on the streets can have – to see them settle in and see the positive effects this has.

    From here, or directly from the hubs, we support people most often into:

    • Emergency accommodation via the Local Authority. This is for individuals who are particularly vulnerable and eligible for immediate support and assistance owing to their support needs
    • Supported accommodation and then longer term supported housing
    • Private Rented Sector accommodation
    • Clearing House properties

    As the people we’re supporting come to us from sleeping rough on the streets, it is crucial to build a relationship of trust. We work hard to ensure the balance of supporting them by providing a rapid service whilst ensuring that we get to know them as individuals. Often people who’ve experienced homelessness come in feeling distrustful, and understandably so when they may have felt rejected or unsupported by statutory services or friends and family. A huge part of our role is proactively signposting, advocating and connecting them to the support they need whether this be through their council, mental health services or social care.

    This winter, we are continuing this work and as always trying to support people into accommodation as quickly as we can. We are also preparing for Severe Weather Emergency Protocol in the coming months, an emergency response to prevent deaths of people sleeping rough during winter and in prolonged extreme cold. We are also preparing for more intermittent spells of cold weather due to the effects of climate change and are organising this crucial lifesaving provision in NSNO by providing a new building for this purpose.

    St Mungo’s frontline workers can help more people sleeping rough and find them safe beds in from the cold. Your help could make sure more people have their last night on the streets – and their first night of a new life. Find out more here.

    National Coming Out Day

    Chris, St Mungo’s LGBTQIA+ Diversity Network Co-ordinator shares his thoughts on why National Coming Out Day still matters in 2022.

    “Happily bouncing on a trampoline with my best friend, 10 year old me decided to share something which had been playing through my mind for a while. A scary and confusing puzzle which I needed help figuring out. I knew I was stepping into dark and taboo waters by discussing it, but I trusted my friend to help me with this perplexing puzzle. “Elli, I like looking at men and I don’t know what that means” I mutter, immediately regretting revealing the puzzle to her. She asked what I meant but I quickly dismissed it, saying I was only joking and to forget about it. 10 year old me was not ready yet, so I shelved the puzzle and locked it away.

    Fast forward four years, after much time surfing the internet, which gave me loads of supportive material and the opportunity to meet people who also had the same puzzle, I finally decided to solve it. I stormed into school, approached my friend shaking and excited blurting out: “I’m pretty sure I’m gay.” I was smiling, I felt relief, and I felt nervous. They immediately screamed and hugged me, also sharing they were bi and welcoming me to the club. “This is fantastic,” I thought. “I feel amazing! I want to tell someone else”. By the end of the day I had told nearly everyone I was close to, and the puzzle had finally been solved. It’s been over a decade now where I’ve lived my truest self.

    I came out early in my teen years, and at the time it was quite rare for someone to come out so young (I was ironically coined the “Gay Lord” by other closeted gays in my school year because of it). Thanks to the support I found online, it allowed me to find the courage to reveal my sexuality in a heteronormative society. That’s why National Coming Out Day is so important: Support.

    National Coming Out Day was established in 1988 by American activists Robert Eichberg and Jean O’Leary. They didn’t want to respond to anti-LGBTQIA+ opinions and views with defensiveness and negativity, so instead they chose to promote positivity and support by creating the day which helped thousands be their authentic selves. The purpose of the day is not to pressure people into coming out, or to shame those who haven’t. The day is there to promote support, awareness, celebrations and the beauty of being your true self.

    Being in the closet is a scary and lonely experience, where the thought of coming out brings anxiety that you’ll be rejected by everyone. The day is important for allowing those individuals who feel locked away to access support and find the courage to be their true self. While coming out can be daunting and scary, it can also be the first time that LGBTQ+ individuals are able to be truly open with the people closest to them.

    National Coming Out Day is also important not just for those in the LGBTQIA+ community, but also for those who are cisgender and/or heterosexual. It promotes and raises awareness to those not in the community and gives them the opportunity to support those who are coming out.

    Is coming out still necessary? Some might say the world is a much more accepting place nowadays. Although it’s somewhat true that society is becoming more accepting, it is far from perfect. ‘Coming Out’ also isn’t just for homosexual cis men like me who have fortunately had a somewhat easy experience. It includes everyone else under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella, large sections of which are still not as widely accepted. Each experience is unique and subjective and all are celebrated under National Coming Out Day.

    At St Mungo’s we are fortunate to have the LGBTQIA+ Diversity Network and many other services to offer support for those who need it. It allows us to create a community of acceptance and belonging within the workplace, which is exactly what National Coming Out Day encourages and promotes. This is why the LGBTQIA+ Diversity Network are hosting a “Human Library” of coming out stories on 11 October 2022, to mark and celebrate the day. By sharing our stories it can help strengthen our belonging in the workplace whilst also giving the opportunity to inspire those who potentially need it.”

    Celebrating Black History Month

    Anita, an Assessment and Reconnection Worker for St Mungo’s, explains the importance of Black History Month and how St Mungo’s is marking this for it’s employees and volunteers. Anita is part of our BAME Diversity Network, which champions diversity in all of our services and offices and seeks to make sure St Mungo’s is an inclusive environment for everyone.

    October is Black History Month (BHM), an opportunity for everyone to learn about Black history and to celebrate the contributions that Black people have made to society. It was founded in America in 1976, but it was not until 1897 that BHM was first celebrated in the UK.

    Black history was not taught in schools or promoted in the media when I was growing up; and the perception of self and my race was overshadowed by the negative media stereotype of the Black community such as poverty, substance us and lack of education. As Black History Month slowly grew in popularity so too has my understanding and my appreciation of Black history and the accomplishments of my people.

    I wish I knew then what I know now because it would have made such a difference to how I viewed myself and the struggles I faced. To be Black and proud, to walk tall and believe I could accomplish anything in life. I didn’t believe that then but I do now.

    Today I have seen the difference that celebrating Black History Month has made to Black people. My younger children know more about the late and greats of Black history than their older siblings who were born in the 80’s. My children will say “Mum did you know that the first open heart surgery was performed by a Black man?”. I did not know this at that time, but knowing this now makes me proud of who I am and hopeful for the future. My children believe they can be great because they see themselves represented in all walks of life.

    The themes of this year’s Black History Month are “Black Health and Wellness” and “Time for Change – Action Not Words”. It is a call for long term action not short term gestures. What can we do as a community to make real change?

    Black History Month is an opportunity for us all to step up and get involved, educate ourselves and educate others. A time to change the stereotypes and negative media narrative and honour our Black leaders and the positive contributions of Black culture to society. Let’s go one step further and break down the barriers of injustice, and inequalities that still exist in society today.

    For me everyday is an opportunity to change the narrative, but Black History Month is a special time of year where we can go all out to remember the late and great people of Black history, but more importantly to keep fighting for change so our children have a better tomorrow.

    In honour of Black History Month, St Mungo’s BAME Network is holding multiple events including Black Health and Wellness event, a Q&A with the BAME Network Executive, a Q&A session with activist Jason Jones, an discussion of authors with Shanice McBean and a Black Leaders Inspire Event with our Executive Director of Housing.

    Finding acceptance and understanding in the workplace

    Bi-Visibility day is the 23rd of September 2022. At St Mungo’s, we pride ourselves on inclusion, whether this is providing safe spaces for our clients in the LGBTQIA+ community, or access to our diversity networks for staff. Here, Liz from our Communications team discusses her experience of working at St Mungo’s.

    “Research from Stonewall shows that 31% of bisexual people having been insulted or harassed for their identity, and more broadly, people who identify as LGBTQIA+ are much more likely to experience homelessness at some point in their lives. With this in mind, creating safe spaces and having an empathetic culture is so important to everything we do.

    At St Mungo’s, we make sure our services are informed about LGBTQIA+ issues, and are welcoming to everyone regardless of sexual or gender identity. When referring people to our different kinds of accommodation, we assess whether that environment is right for them, including any support needs they might have, and what will make them feel most safe.

    This understanding and acceptance also extends to our colleagues. When I first joined St Mungo’s, I was provided information about our diversity networks as part of my induction. Not only were we able to join the networks we identified with the most (roughly 10% of staff at St Mungo’s identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community), but simple things, like having posters that encourage you to use the toilets that best fit your gender identity, and information about our workplace supporter scheme for anything and everything you might need, made for an incredibly welcoming environment.

    I’d never been part of an organisation that so openly celebrated the diversity of its staff in every way. There’s a school of thought that you should always be authentic to yourself, and it was this environment that helped me to feel that I was able to be entirely myself around my colleagues for the first time in any job I’ve ever had.

    The acceptance that I’ve seen and received at St Mungo’s has been so important. The meetings for our LGBTQIA+ network that I’ve attended have been so friendly and welcoming, and I’ve even been able to support on some projects for Pride. I’ve met people in the network who I’ve then come across in other areas of the organisation, meaning I already have a connection, which has been really valuable, particularly during the pandemic.

    There is an incredible commitment to diversity and inclusion at St Mungo’s, not just for staff but also for the people we support. And so, this Bisexual Awareness Week, it’s important to take a moment to celebrate everything we’re doing to make people feel safe, valued and understood.”

    Find out more about Diversity and Inclusion at St Mungo’s.

    Supporting people through a lonely time of year

    During the winter there’s less opportunity for people to go out and so the people we support can isolate themselves which can have a negative impact on their mental health. Here, Ben, a Housing First Caseworker in Westminster shares how our teams are focusing on arranging activities for the people we support to ensure they don’t feel lonely this time of the year. 

    Housing First is a service that moves people into accommodation first and then work with them around that to help them support their tenancy. I think it’s really important that we work in this way as I think it’s easy to get someone into accommodation and then to lose them as they’ll get into somewhere and they find themselves isolated and by themselves and they don’t know what to do and they can sometimes develop depression because they’re feeling so alone. It’s not something many people would expect for someone who has just been given their own home but because they’re not used to being on their own all the time it’s difficult for them.

    When you’ve housed people who have been living on the streets during the winter time it’s hard to persuade them to come out in the cold and wet weather. So it’s important that we offer them something new, and we try to give them a new experience, whether that’s a museum visit or going out for a Chinese so that they feel part of society and their community.

    I was speaking with someone today who had been on the streets for 14 years and now they’re in the flat they can’t give it up for anything, the home is everything they have and since he’s moved into accommodation he has regressed and hidden himself away because he’s never had the opportunity to do that before. It becomes harder during the winter months to keep our clients engaged and to get them out of their houses and taking part in activities. I also recognise the fact that none of us do particularly well during the winter, it’s not a great time of year for most people so there’s definitely  a change of mood. It’s making sure that I’m having daily check ins with my clients to see how they’re coping and to make sure they’re ok and what support they need.

    Christmas is a bit of a taboo subject as if you’ve had very traumatic experience, Christmas is not a fun loving or pleasant time for them. They see people around them that are off doing their Christmas shopping, meeting with their friends and being able to spend time with their family and loved ones and it can add to the isolation people feel. Just because they’re in their own accommodation it doesn’t get any easier for them and it can sometimes bring up period of their life where they are reflecting on the past and they realise they are alone for Christmas. It’s a real struggle and I think it is a bit of a taboo subject, as the reality of it is that it is a really tough time for a lot of people.

    A lot of the things that we do around Housing First, is to make sure all our clients have food hampers over Christmas and we individualise each of our clients Christmas packages as much as we can which I Think makes a real difference. Making sure that our clients are aware of the extra support that is available to them over the winter time. As a team we work for the majority of Christmas and we make sure that staff are available to support clients when they need them and they’ll receive daily check-ins and phone calls and we share the work load a lot as sometimes people do need to be off, we also take on other teams clients when they’re off on leave to make sure that everyone is still supported during the break.

    I do go out and buy my clients their very own mini Christmas tree and a few decorations so they have something to look forward to. I think it’s also a nice reminder that if they do start to feel lonely at Christmas and if they are on their own then they can look at the tree and know that someone does care about them and hopefully it will remind them of a happier moment.

    I think it’s really important that people show that they care at this time of year, however they do that. There are parts of Christmas that I don’t enjoy and I think sharing these experiences and my own feeling helps my clients to see that they’re not alone, and that not everyone is having a jolly festive time, regardless of their situation.

    I’ve been working with someone with very complex mental health. At the beginning the only way he would feel comfortable talking to me was if he was in his bed under a duvet. He wouldn’t come out to see me and he wasn’t looking after himself very well. Six months later, we now meet up three times a week and get a cup of coffee at a local café and he’s beginning to trust me which is amazing. He’s now on a mental health pathway within St Mungo’s and is moving to additional support, he said “I can’t believe you’ve listened to me and you’ve made it happen”. He was so happy. I think it goes to show that there isn’t a perfect scenario for people experiencing homelessness and your options are always limited when you’re in the system, but being able to find him a space that’s more calming environment and less chaotic is really great for me. To see the growth in someone is the reason why I do this job.

    Find out more about our Housing First service here.

    Having difficult conversations about grief and loss

    Here, Catherine our Bereavement Support Coordinator explains her role in helping our staff and the people we support through our Bereavement Support Service.

    Bereavement is cited in the top 10 reasons that contribute to homelessness. This is why it’s so important to be with the people we support as they process their loss as well as ensure that staff are properly equipped to help them with all the difficult emotions that grief can bring up. Our Bereavement Support Service is available across all St Mungo’s services and aims to do just that – provide a range of bereavement support to those in services and the staff supporting them.

    While each person’s story is unique, there can be factors that can contribute to why people find themselves facing homelessness. Sometimes this is having an unstable environment in childhood or traumatic life experiences such as losing loved ones. In my role as Bereavement Care Coordinator, I offer emotional support to people in St Mungo’s services, with the aim to offer a calm presence in a non-judgemental space for them to discuss their loss and feelings, either face to face or over the phone.

    People who experience homelessness can face chronic health problems and, the sad reality is that without support, people on the streets face a much shorter life expectancy. This is why my role equally focuses on supporting staff members who work in our services and closely with people who are experiencing homelessness to help them process their feelings of loss if someone they have been supporting passes away.

    Whether the individual has passed away under tragic circumstances or due to prolonged ill health, staff can often be caught between the need to remain professional but being personally impact by the person’s death. It’s important to offer reassurance and promote the need for self-care and space for them to reflect about what has happened – to try and normalise the grieving process. But this can be hard and there is often an incredible sadness of feeling like a life has been cut short. Cruelly in most cases, staff will have seen the people we support start to make changes, improve drinking habits and get onto a path of recovery but this can’t always be maintained.

    With time we work with staff about the need to pre-empt the potential outcome of individuals passing away in their services – our Palliative Care Service is crucial in this. But despite coming into their jobs to make a difference and to bring hope in ending homelessness, staff do often say they still need to mentally prepare themselves for seeing people they interact with every day approaching the end of life. Nevertheless, I am always struck by the bond that staff have with the people they support and the ‘family’ type feeling they have for each other.

    Volunteering to support people with their mental health

    We take a holistic approach to mental and physical health, addressing these issues alongside each other. Volunteers play a crucial role in helping us to achieve this. Here, Amie shares her experiences of volunteering to support people who’ve experienced homelessness with their mental health.

    My journey with St Mungo’s began in September 2019, I had graduated from University and knew that I wanted to get into the charity sector. I applied for the role of a Mental Health Volunteer at St Mungo’s via their website which I was successful for. I then went through the training with the St Mungo’s Volunteer Services staff. My first role with St Mungo’s was doing the ‘Women’s Morning’ with a mental health service in Bristol which I really enjoyed.

    During lockdown the ‘Women’s Morning’ stopped due to Covid-19 and I was put on furlough from my day job. I then got an email from the Volunteer Services about the emergency hotels and from there I started my second volunteering role as an Emergency Hotel Volunteer which was a unique service to be a part of. I managed to network with a whole range of staff members as the team at the hotel was made up of different services from around the Bristol hub.

    I then went through the locum application whilst volunteering and I picked up a locum shift at a Women’s Services. I had only been there for a month, but I ended up staying there for a year because I loved it so much! I loved trying something new and challenging. I was there for about a year, and then a vacancy came up for the place I’m at now which is a mixed hostel. The role involves more incident and crisis management which I’m also really enjoying.

    At my current role, we’re getting more volunteers into the services which means I’m going to be a supervisor, so I’ve come full circle in such a short space of time!

    Inspiration for why I got involved in volunteering

    I was inspired to start volunteering when I was in my final year of university, I had a bad mental health crisis. This crisis made me realise that I wanted to help and support those who have gone through similar mental health issues. My role as a Mental Health Volunteer at St Mungo’s made me re-evaluate everything of what’s important in life.

    St Mungo’s appealed a lot because there’s great structure for volunteers and they have great training for volunteers. They even paid for me to be a mental health first aider whilst I was a volunteer. I also chose St Mungo’s because of their locum scheme which I think is a great way to inspire volunteers to continue their career into the homeless sector. The volunteer team really make you feel valued as a volunteer.

    The rewards and challenges of volunteering the impact it can have:

    It was quite challenging when I first started in the ‘Women’s Morning’ because I had never worked with people who’ve experienced homelessness before so it was a massive learning curb. At the beginning communication with the people we were supporting was tough and there were some difficult situations. But once you’ve experienced those situations more and more, you feel much more confident. And it was very rewarding, I got to go and do something that I truly enjoyed every day.

    Volunteers play such a crucial role in helping St Mungo’s staff members with support areas such an art therapy, gardening and cooking as the charity can’t have many specialised staff full time for these activities. The volunteers are integral to the people St Mungo’s support and their progression in moving away from the streets as full time staff might not have time to do certain activities and having volunteers come up with ideas for the sessions and planning these sessions is something that’s valuable.

    A moment that still stands out whilst volunteering at St Mungo’s was when I was at the women’s services. I drove someone who had been staying at the service over to their new flat and helped them set up their belongings and home. Seeing them turn their whole life around I’d supported them every step of the way was an emotional but rewarding experience!

    Find out more about current volunteering vacancies here.

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