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Corin Heney, Volunteering Manager

1st June 2023

We conducted our annual volunteer survey this spring to hear from volunteers about why they volunteer, what they enjoy about volunteering, and to gather feedback about what could be improved.

This winter we were able to re-open our night shelters, where our volunteers are an essential part of the warm welcome we offer guests, alongside the safe shelter and delicious home-cooked food.

The volunteer survey shows that Glass Door volunteers are still highly motivated to help us support people affected by homelessness, that they very much enjoy volunteering with Glass Door, and that they feel both supported and informed. Our volunteers enjoy working directly with our guests, hearing their stories and creating a human connection. They also enjoy knowing that they are supporting society’s most vulnerable, and being part of a like-minded team.

Over half of those who responded said volunteering could not be improved, and we also got some useful feedback on our services, which will help us plan for next winter.

When asked about what they enjoy most about volunteering, one volunteer said:

The possibility that each time I volunteer for the night shelters, I may be able to make someone's day just a tiny bit better.


Another volunteer shared:

I feel blessed with what I have and want to help people who are less well off.


Snapshot of Glass Door volunteering

The majority of our volunteers heard about us through their church, or through family or friends, which reinforces the importance of our brilliant church partners who host the night shelters, take part in the Sleep Out, collect harvest donations, and support us in many more ways.

79% of our volunteers are motivated to volunteer with us because they specifically want to help people affected by homelessness. Many also want to give something back generally, and to do something that connects them to their local community.

I get so much back from volunteering. It is humbling and I love helping people

93% were satisfied with their volunteer experience

99% felt supported by staff, and 100% felt supported by their volunteer coordinator

97% felt informed about the work that we do

In addition to the above stats, 91% felt appreciated and thanked for their volunteering, with high percentages also feeling prepared for their roles, and understanding the service they were contributing to and the positive impact that these services have.

Volunteers are very happy with how much we communicate with them, and generally what we contact them about. As a result of the data gathered, we’re going to more regularly share other ways that people can support Glass Door, as well as more on the difference being made, such as regular guest stories and positive outcomes.

Here are the main themes that emerged when we asked what volunteers enjoy most about volunteering with Glass Door:

Many said they consider volunteering at the night shelters and with our guests to be a privilege, and the comments show clearly that our volunteers truly embody our values of respect, and treating everyone with dignity.



We received feedback around some aspects of our night shelters, as well as some suggestions for what we could change, for volunteers and for guests. So, we put together an FAQ answering some of those main queries and ideas. Hopefully it gives a good insight into how we plan our services and use resources to support guests most effectively.

Q: Why are the night shelters only open in the winter?

A: Ideally, we’d offer accommodation to people affected by homelessness whenever they are in need. Unfortunately, the money we fundraise can only stretch so far, so we run our night shelters in the coldest months, when risk from rough sleeping is at its highest.

Even though our shelters close in the spring, our casework service continues to work with guests year-round. Caseworkers are located at six partner day centres across west London and they see shelter and non-shelter guests five days a week.

Q: Can we host more guests in the night shelters?

A: The maximum capacity of our shelters is limited by the smallest venue in the circuit, and by our staff to guest ratio. Our smallest venues can safely accommodate 35 guests. Our staff to guest ratio is 20:1, designed for guest, staff and volunteer safety, but it also ensures staff have enough time to fully support guests who need their time.

This past season we limited the number of guests in the night shelter to 25, to reduce the risks associated with COVID-19. We know that people experiencing homelessness are statistically much less likely to be vaccinated and more likely to be vulnerable to COVID-19. This meant that an outbreak would be faster spreading, longer lasting and more severe for guests affected. (This was also the reasoning behind other safety measures like mask wearing and isolation of unwell guests.)

With the continual lessening in risk from COVID-19 we are planning to increase our guest numbers next season. We are planning to run three shelters next season, each with a capacity of 35 guests for 105 guests total each night.

Q: Why did we sometimes have less guests than we’ve cooked for?

A: We know that not all of the guests that accept a place in the shelters will arrive. There are many reasons for this; some may have found other accommodation, or may not have been able to travel to the shelter, or gotten lost. Attending a night shelter for the first time can be scary and intimidating for many. Next season we’re rolling out several initiatives to better inform new and perspective guests to help them feel more comfortable to attend.

To ensure we are hosting as many people as we safely can we started to invite more guests than were expected to arrive. This past season we were conservative with our overbooking ratio, but intend to increase it to maximise the chances of being at capacity. 

As a result of our strong COVID-19 safeguards this winter, we only had 9 cases among guests, including an outbreak of 8 cases in a single circuit. Each guest was moved to a hotel room and supported while they recovered, at Glass Door’s expense. While the outbreak was ongoing, we did not invite new guests to attend the shelter to limit the spread of the outbreak.

Q: Can we serve food or offer take-aways to people not staying in the shelters?

A: This past season we chose not to cater for dinner-only guests in order to manage the numbers within the service around Covid-19 safeguards, as well as having to work within our staff-guest ratio.

As our maximum staff to guest ratio is 20:1, and dinner only guests form a part of this ratio, we’re unable to host large numbers of dinner only guests. This is why we do not advertise a dinner service or community dining. Additionally, while food poverty is an important and increasingly prevalent issue and anyone experiencing it deserves support, our services are designed for people experiencing homelessness. We can signpost people in need of food but not shelter to local food services, where they can access the right resources to better support them.

Q: Can guests use other facilities we have in the church?

A: The churches that host our night shelters kindly let us use their space free of charge. We’d love to offer guests the use of showers and other facilities that some venues have, but, we do not have the capacity to clean or organise their usage. Most venues have early bookings the following day that limits the amount of time our cleaners can be in the building.

Each night shelter circuit is close to one of our partner day centres where showers and laundry can be accessed during the day. The day centres also offer food, clothes stores and health professionals, as well as being where our caseworkers are based, who work with guests to help build a route out of homelessness.


If you’d like more information about how we design our services and the considerations involved, please email [email protected] and one of our Operations team can help.

A huge thank you to everyone who completed the volunteer survey for your insightful and valuable feedback.