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.

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