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Purpose of the befriending scheme

Over the winter Glass Door overs shelter to those who need it most, and throughout the year our casework service operates in partner day centres. Due to the government lockdown, our services have changed, and we are seeking new ways to meet the needs of our guests.

Glass Door guests are living in individual hotel rooms to self-isolate. As we continue to offer casework and operational support, we are missing a key service that our volunteers provide: socialisation.  Many of our guests have said that the worst thing about homelessness is the loneliness. Every year we see immense gratitude for the shelter volunteers who sit and share stories with guests over meals. One of our shelter guests last year said, ‘I don’t feel alone anymore’.

Glass Door wishes to continue improving lives through socialisation, by linking volunteers to guests over the phone. The befriending service aims to provide a positive impact on mental health and emotional support to help the guest prepare for moving on from homelessness. The service also aims to provide the opportunity for volunteers to continue building relationships with guests and gain a deeper understanding of individual experiences of homelessness. 

Mentoring and/or befriending can form part of the support package that homeless people need to help them find and keep a settled home. Along with other elements such as mediation or reconciliation, mentoring and befriending can help someone begin to build a network to support themselves through the process of resettlement. Mentoring and befriending can act as a bridge to a world of companionship, social interaction, education, training, and employment. They provide back-up, rather than acting as an alternative, to paid support workers and to personal social networks. All mentoring and befriending schemes should be based on principles of impartiality and confidentiality. Many befriending and mentoring schemes choose to work on: mediation/reconciliation companionship/social interaction building bridges to education, training, and employment.

Overview of homelessness

People become homeless for lots of reasons, and often it is the accumulation of multiple, constant pressures that act in unison to cause homelessness. Our guests have faced challenges like the loss of a job, domestic violence, mental illness, release from the care system with few resources, breakdown of a relationship and the death of a partner or parent to name a few.

On top of this, there are not enough affordable homes and the property market in London remains prohibitively high for many. With cuts to benefits and social housing, more and more people are finding themselves unable to make ends meet.

People’s experiences are varied, so it helps to listen first and not make any assumptions about someone’s past.

What we expect from you

As a guideline, we suggest a half an hour session to speak to someone either by a call, and half an hour afterwards to fill in the report on how it went. Please then proceed to send this to [email protected].

Depending on your commitments and what the guest wants, the sessions would be once or twice a week between 8:30am and 8pm.

We also expect you to report back any requests the guest has made (e.g. some new socks) and any concerns for their welfare - see ‘safeguarding’.

Calling process:

  1. Call the guest using hidden caller ID, or simply type in 141 before their mobile number
  2. Speak to the guest, making them aware that will you have to leave after 30 mins
  3. Keep notes of the conversation e.g. topics, any changes in mood from the previous calls
  4. At the end of the call, ensure the guest is aware that you have kept notes and will file a report to GD staff
  5. Set a time for when they would like to speak to you again
  6. Fill in a record of the conversation and submit that to Glass Door staff
    1. Report: https://bit.ly/BefriendingReport

Impact of the Coronavirus on our guests

Currently our guests are in a unique position, they have been given somewhere to stay for an uncertain period. On the one hand, they are living in greater comfort than when they were sleeping rough or in night shelters, and have their basic needs met. On the other hand, this change in circumstances is more isolating and may be a great adjustment from their life before.

There will be a degree of uncertainty since the hotel is not permanent accommodation. If the guests have questions that relate to finding a home, please ask them to speak to their caseworker.

Volunteer Handbook

The volunteer handbook contains information about the Glass Door, our mission, and what we expect from volunteers.

Boundaries and emotional resilience

While it is important to lend a listening ear and to empathise with the guest. There are professional boundaries to uphold for the safety of everyone involved. As noted in the volunteer handbook, no personal details should be shared with the guest, no money or gifts should be exchanged, no contact should happen outside of the befriending sessions and any concerns should always be signposted back to Glass Door.

The befriending network has some clear guidance on how to maintain resilience during throughout your experience as a befriending volunteer. Glass Door are available to speak to if you have any concerns or want further guidance. It is as important to maintain your own mental health if you plan on helping others. If you need to discuss any issues about your volunteering experience, please email [email protected].

Though we do expect volunteers to be committed to their befriendees, not all pairings work. If you would prefer to no longer speak to your befriendee, then please let Matthew know. We will sensitively inform the guest without placing blame and aim to quickly match them to a different volunteer.

For this reason, all volunteers should be prepared to take on an additional befriendee at short notice, if their volunteer match has been unsuccessful. Please let Matthew know if you are unable to take on more than one partnership.


Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility. Glass Door is committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare and wellbeing of adults at risk, whether they are guests of our services, staff, or volunteers. We expect all volunteers to share this commitment. We ask that volunteers pass any concerns on to a paid staff member immediately.

If anyone brings up something that you believe may be a concern to the individual or someone else’s mental health, you should report this to our safeguarding officer.

Glass Door safeguarding contact:

Neil Parkinson, Senior Caseworker

[[email protected]], 07825654026

If you cannot reach Neil, please call the Glass Door office: 02073514948

If the matter is urgent and outside of office hours (weekdays 9-5), please call the hotel that your guest is staying in, you will be provided with the number once you have matched with someone.

In the hotel, the main duty manager works from 8:30am to 8pm. We ask that you keep your phone calls within this timeframe, so you always have an emergency contact available. After this time there is a shift leader who is available if needed.


Before agreeing to the befriending scheme, our guests will be made aware that volunteers should report anything of concern back to Glass Door staff, see: safeguarding.

Guests will also be given the option to opt-in to details of the conversation being shared. These details would include a short summary of the topics you talked about, and information that might be useful for their caseworker to know to help with move-on options for the guest. This is so we can map the guest’s progress over time and the overall progress of the befriending scheme.

The guest is entitled to opt-out of their information being shared at any time.

Data protection

We will protect your data and will only use your name and contact details to communicate with you about volunteering. If you would like to us to remove your data at any point, you can opt-out at any time. This is true of our guests as well. The main reason we collect information about you is to help support you. Having certain details helps us give appropriate advice, support, and advocacy. It also helps us determine whether you are receiving the services that you have requested.

For more details on how we use your data please see our data protection policy.

Role of a caseworker

All our guests are welcome to use our casework service, and every guest in the hotels has a caseworker assigned to them. Caseworkers help individuals with a range of issues, including:

  • accessing accommodation
  • accessing other specialist services such as drug, alcohol, and mental health services.
  • obtaining birth certificates and other forms of lost or stolen ID
  • opening bank accounts when possible
  • registering with a GP and dental services
  • writing CVs and applying for jobs 
  • dealing with benefit issues
  • accessing storage
  • returning to country of origin, when appropriate
  • maintaining accommodation
  • applying for the EU Settlement Scheme and understanding your legal rights around your immigration status

Glass Door's advice service offers an individualised, tailored approach. Our caseworkers will accompany guests to appointments if needed and have even been known to visit our guests in the hospital and in detox facilities. If any of these concerns arise during your conversations, recommend that the guest speaks to their caseworker to receive professional support.

Topics of conversation

It is not always easy to know what someone wants to speak about, if you find the guest is very talkative then it is best to let them lead. However, if you find yourself needing to initiate the conversation more often, here are some tips:

Please do not pry or press a guest to speak on a subject if they are not comfortable. Please do offer sympathy and kindness, but do not proselytise (promote a religious belief). Try to avoid asking questions that could be traumatic for someone to answer, like how they became homeless unless they bring it up themselves.

Good conversation starters could include:

  • introducing yourself, your first name, your hobbies, what line of work you are in, once you have shared details about yourself, they may feel more comfortable opening up
  • ask them what they have done that day
  • hobbies and interests, what book you are currently reading, sharing musical tastes, discovering what they do for fun or have done in the past
  • sharing of culture, what it is like to live in different places, if they are from another country you could learn about that culture e.g. their food and language
  • current events, they may not have access to the internet at the moment so you can be their ears
  • here are some additional resources to give you ideas for positive conversation starters.

Ending the conversation

It may be helpful at the start of the conversation to state when you must leave, this will manage the guest’s expectations and prevent overrunning.

Make sure to thank them for the chat as they have taken the time to speak with you as well.

At the end of your conversation, please check with the guest to see if there is anything they’d prefer to not be shared with Glass Door. Make sure to omit this information on the report, unless it falls under a safeguarding concern.

Check in with the guest to see when they’d next like a phone call, if they are not sure yet then you can ask them to contact Caroline on [email protected] or by phone 07516 297 390.

Make sure to fill in the report after the conversation while it is fresh in your memory. If anything is urgent then email [email protected] directly.

Thank you

Thank you for choosing to volunteer with Glass Door. You are at the heart of our organisation. You make our services possible and will be helping people when they need it the most.

 You can also download this document in PDF form.