Catherine is a part time volunteer with Simon on the Streets. She takes part in the weekly soup run and also gets involved in some street outreach work. As a student who had moved to Leeds she first got involved with Simon because she had some spare time that she really wanted to put to good use. Her initial contact revealed that the Community is not an organisation that views people who are homeless as passive beings in an active world who need to have things done for them. The fact that Simon want to support people to do things for themselves is precisely what drew Catherine to us.
So why does she do it? To begin with it was simply the idea of wanting to support improvements in the lives of people with many complex needs. As time went on, although this would always be at the heart of why she volunteers, Catherine realised there were many different reasons to continue. “I enjoy the challenge of engaging with a client group that can be very difficult to work with” – this can range from trying to get a very quiet and depressed man who refuses to engage with anyone to simply share a few words in conversation as a very gentle beginning to an engagement process, to seeing behind the loud aggressive shouting and swearing of a very angry woman and getting to the root of the behaviour.
“It is also hugely satisfying to work in an organisation that is well respected; and not just by other agencies but also by the people who really matter – our service users! We strive to ensure that the person is put before the ‘piece of work’. Service users understand we see them and then their issues and not a set of problems that needs to be solved. Our method always allows the person to drive the work and decide on what is to be done, our role is to offer support in this”.
Part of Catherine’s interest in volunteering was to see if it was a field of work that she wanted to get into. Her time with the Community has helped her decide that it is. One of the reasons for this is, “the people we support are such fantastic individuals with great stories to tell who are often, once you get to know them, very good company.”
Catherine has now made the move forward and is soon to start working full time in a related field. “if you’re interested in this type of work as a career it’s great. All the time you’re volunteering you are gaining the training, knowledge, skills and experience that you need!”