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photo: volunteers preparing food for our dinner service. 

9 August 2021

We conducted our annual volunteer survey throughout May and June this year to find out what it’s like to be a Glass Door volunteer and to gather ideas about what could be improved.

By Corin Heney 

volunteering officer Corin HeneyThis winter looked very different to usual as we adapted our services as part of our COVID-19 response. We know volunteers missed chatting with guests and this came through strongly in the survey results, as did concerns that the dinner service reached less guests than the usual shelters.

Despite this, most survey respondents said the volunteering experience could not be improved, and that volunteering is already amply meaningful and rewarding. Many praised Glass Door staff as well as our commitment to supporting those affected by homelessness throughout the pandemic.

Said one volunteer:

Glass Door staff were lovely and committed. The pandemic meant that the experience was more limited than it had been in previous years... I missed the interaction with the guests.

Another remarked:

Knowing that I was helping vulnerable people during Covid times; and volunteering with the other cook and coordinator was special in months of lockdown - it helped my mental health.

Snapshot of volunteering

With necessary limitations on team sizes, we had less volunteers this year – 470. Though fewer in number, they clocked more volunteering hours each than usual, and mainly supported the dinner service by cooking, serving, and delivering food, or coordinating teams.

Volunteer satisfaction graphic   Volunteer support graphic   Volunteer safety graphic

You told us what you liked

Our volunteers are strongly motivated by wanting to help people affected by homelessness and giving something back. Most enjoy the practical aspect of helping and interacting with guests and being part of their volunteer team.

One volunteer said:

As I enjoy cooking I love being able to use my skill to...hopefully bring a bit of comfort and show love.

Here are some of the words volunteers used to describe their experience:

Volunteer survey word cloud

What we could improve

The annual volunteer survey is also a valuable chance for volunteers to share ideas for how we can better run our services and support guests.

Some of your key suggestions include:

  • Improving the COVID-19 safety and training for volunteers within the hostel
  • Involving guests in service delivery, for example, shelter meal preparation
  • Name badges for staff, volunteers and guests to further enhance the sense of community and equality
  • Sharing guidance with volunteers on advocacy and more information about how to best help people who may be homeless in your community
  • Supplying volunteers with leaflets detailing service information to share with community and networks
  • Sharing clear winter service season dates earlier
  • Providing more phone charging points for guests

These and many more suggestions are being considered, and some of these suggestions have already been factored into our winter plans. Thank you to everyone who completed the volunteer survey for your insightful and valuable feedback.

Plans to reopen our winter night shelters, alongside one hostel, were revealed recently and preparation is underway. Stay tuned for updates on what this winter season will look like.