Greenwich Winter Night Shelter were recently announced as one of the winners of the London Homelessness Awards 2022. They will find out what prize they have won at a special event at the Union Chapel on October 12th. We asked their Volunteer Manager Georgia to tell us a bit more about what they do.
My name is Georgia, and I am the Volunteer Manager for Greenwich Winter Night Shelter. We operate a night shelter from October to April and also a year round Day Centre which is open from 9am-1pm.
At this time of year, our main focus is, of course, the Day Centre and a huge part of my job is making sure that we are fully staffed by our wonderful volunteers who look after, connect with and cook for the guests who come into the Shelter. Volunteers are at the heart of what we do: and connecting with them is one of my favorite parts of the job.
So what does a typical day look like? Well it’s hard to say ‘typical’ because no two days are ever truly the same in the Shelter: you never quite know what will come up or who will walk through the door!
I get to the Shelter before 9am, to make sure I’m there to welcome our volunteers who are working for the day and ensure they have everything they need. It’s so important for me to build a culture of welcome, so haying hello to everyone who comes in during the morning is key.
Adaptability is a key part of my role, and some mornings I even end up cooking the breakfast for the guests which is such a privilege to do, even if they do say they prefer someone else’s cooking! I love connecting with guests and think it’s important to lead from the front when it comes to motivating volunteers.
The rest of my day genuinely depends on what is going on. Some days this will be mainly admin, although I’ll still make sure to pop my head in on the guests and volunteers throughout the day, eating with them when I can.
Recently, during the summer, I’ve been attending lots of school fairs to represent GWNS and to make us known in the community, with a view to driving engagement and recruiting more volunteers. This has been great fun but also a really key part of what I do as volunteers make the shelter happen. Other ways I recruit volunteers include networking events with local organisations and churches, building relationships with local publications, and simply by going out and chatting to people. Recently I recruited one of the Shelter’s neighbors to the team who had come down to ask for the water meter key: I offered her a tour and signed her up! I also take volunteers along on my recruitment drive, to build relationship with them in a smaller setting and display them as ambassadors for the charity.
Some of the more weird and wonderful things my role has involved is going and collecting new donated items for the Shelter. On one occasion recently the Shelter Director and I hopped in a minibus to go and collect a pool table which had been donated, I’ve helped dog sit one of our Guest’s dogs in the office, and even cut one of Guest’s hair!
We’ll soon start to gear up for the winter again, so I’ll be spending lots of time connecting with previous volunteers, introducing myself to new ones, starting to look at volunteer number requirements, tidying up the database, creating rotas and organising training. We’ll shortly be rolling out a new database system which I am looking forward to, making us more efficient so we can spend more time focused on people and less time on systems.
I love my role and how I get to spend so much time connecting with people, building a culture of welcome and serving those most in need.
For more information about GWNS go to https://gwns.org.uk/.
For more news on the London Homelessness Awards 2022 and to see videos about previous winners, please go to https://lhawards.org.uk/.