I have been a volunteer with Leeds Simon Community since March 2007. I first heard about the Leeds Simon Community whilst running a project through Leeds University called Homed. Homed is a project that aims to increase the awareness and involvement of health care students in the field of homelessness. It works in 2 hostels in the Leeds area providing support and information to residents on a weekly basis. I had been involved in this project for two years when I first heard about the Leeds Simon Community. I became interested in the idea of being able to provide support to rough sleepers and people living on the streets, something I had no previous experience of at this time. I learned more about it and consequently became involved.
Since joining the Leeds Simon Community I have been involved in Street Outreach and the Breakfast Club. I have volunteered on street outreach for both their morning and evening sessions. I enjoy it because every session is different and you can never anticipate an outcome. The timings of outreach sessions aim to access those in need of most support, which is somewhat difficult to predict.
These sessions are both a challenge yet incredibly rewarding, and I feel that through continuity and determination there are excellent results. For example to see the small adjustments, concerning an individual’s attitude to their current situation is fulfilling in itself.
At the Breakfast Club I have been able to meet many service users more intensively engaged with Leeds Simon Community. These sessions allow full time Leeds Simon Community workers and volunteers to engage with service users in a more structured manner. These sessions have been an eye opener to the long term practical and emotional support required regarding individuals. Leeds Simon Community may and do work with some individuals for months or years before they feel ready to even consider making changes to their current situation.
Leeds Simon on the Streets community comprises 3 full time members of staff and a small group of volunteers. I feel the success of work carried out by Simon on the Streets lies largely in its strategy and approach. Workers and volunteers demonstrate a genuine interest to get to know individuals on the street and to provide support in a reliable and dependable manner.
Volunteering with the Simon on the Streets has reemphasized to me the large number of issues faced by homeless people on a day to day basis, including drug issues, mental health problems, and difficulty obtaining adequate housing benefits and health care. Being able to offer my support to individuals during outreach sessions over the past 7 months has been an entirely rewarding experience and I am proud to be part of such a hardworking and committed team.