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How to become a homelessness volunteer 

There are over 46,000 people registered as homeless is Scotland. However, this figure does not reflect the true extent of homelessness and organisations can only estimate the numbers of people who are sleeping on the streets or on friend’s floors, in temporary accommodation or in unsafe tenancies. There are many organisations across Scotland that provide support and services to homeless people, and most receive very little funding and instead rely on charitable donations and volunteers.

On this page:

What does the role involve?
What will I get out of this?
What will I be expected to give back?
What skills do I need?
How much time should I be expected to give?
How do I get involved?

What does the role involve?

There are a wide range of volunteering opportunities available to people who want to support homeless people, this includes roles for people with specific skills and knowledge.

Many homelessness organisations rely on volunteers to fulfil key areas of their service. These roles could include:

  • clerical or administrative work
  • street fundraising
  • befriending or one-to-one work with homeless people
  • DIY, gardening and practical help to assist people to settle into their new home

    There are also a number of opportunities available to people with specific skills and expertise. This could include more general work delivering key aspects of the organisation’s services or work within specific projects:
  • teachers
  • youth workers
  • solicitors

    What will I get out of this?

    This role can be extremely rewarding and satisfying. Not only will you meet new people, but you will also have the opportunity to listen to people’s stories and offer them practical support and assistance. You will also get the chance, through training and work experience, to develop new skills. If you are interested in finding paid work in this area, volunteering is a great way to get a foot in the door.


    What will I be expected to give back?

    Working with homeless people can be extremely demanding and challenging. You will be dealing with and offering support to people who have experienced hardship. However, support is available if you have a difficult day and you will not be expected to deal with things on your own.


    What skills do I need?

    Whilst organisations working to support homeless people welcome volunteers with specialist knowledge and skills, such as doctors, nurses and lawyers, they are also looking for volunteers with a real commitment to helping homeless people. It is important that you have the following qualities:

  • sympathetic
  • willingness to listen and learn about the lives of homeless people
  • non-judgmental
  • commitment to the aims of the organisation

    They would also welcome volunteers with specialist knowledge of housing and benefits rights.

    How much time should I be expected to give?

    Approximately 2 to 4 hours each week.


    How do I get involved?

    There are a number of organisations working to support homeless people, some are large national organisations, whilst others a smaller local organisations.

    Useful Contacts

    Shelter Scotland
    is the national campaigning charity helping homeless and badly housed people. They offer a range of volunteering opportunities throughout the year. From street fundraising to research to DIY there are opportunities for everyone.

    Shelter Scotland
    4th Floor, Scotiabank House
    6 South Charlotte Street
    EH2 4AW

    tel: 0131 473 7170

    Aberdeen Cyrenians is a voluntary organisation working to alleviate homelessness through the provision of accommodation and support services. They rely on volunteers to help deliver their services and will work with potential volunteers to identify suitable opportunities.

    Aberdeen Cyrenians
    Simon House
    106 Crown Street
    AB11 6HJ

    tel: 01224 572 877

    The Ark Trust is an Edinburgh based organisation providing a number of services to homeless people. They run a resource centre, a café and community laundrette and a drop in centre for women affected by domestic abuse, among other services. They welcome people who are interested in volunteering and there are a number of opportunities in a variety of areas. Visit their website for more information about volunteering.

    The Ark Trust
    2 New Street
    EH8 8BH

    tel: 0131 557 1197

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