Volunteering to Help the Homeless at Passage
It’s becoming increasingly popular for people to volunteer for the homeless over Christmas which is great; but what about the rest of the year?
That’s what Marion thought when she got in touch with homeless charity, Passage, at the end of January and offered to lend a hand.
After the Christmas volunteering surge, it was back to business as usual for Passage, and Volunteer Manager Ben explained that the charity was desperately in need of volunteers, so they jumped at the chance for Marion to help out for the day.
And so Marion headed on over to meet Ben at the newly refurbished St. Vincent’s Centre at Carlisle Place at 7am to begin her volunteering day; knowing only that she’d be helping out in the kitchens with breakfast and lunch.
It was all systems go from the moment I started. I was led to a large restaurant style kitchen that was buzzing with volunteers all helping chop, prepare and clean. The chef was busy preparing a full English breakfast consisting of scrambled eggs, bacon, black pudding and toast, whilst we were putting together everything needed for porridge and pancakes.
I was pretty shocked at the fast paced nature of the place but when around 50 hungry people arrived at 9.30, it was clear that speed was key as we had quite a few people to cater for and clean up after before the lunch run!
Once breakfast was in full swing, I was put on coffee and tea duty – serving through a small hatch to people of all ages and nationalities. I was struck by how calm and quiet the mood in the bar, lounge and garden area was – especially in contrast to our busy prep period. Some people chatted quietly but most of our guests just enjoyed the warmth and kept themselves to themselves.
I learned that everyone we served must register at reception each day before they come in, and they are asked to make a small contribution toward the cost of their food. It’s usually just a few pence and some are able to use vouchers. The aim of this ‘payment’ process is simply to empower them to be responsible and manage what little they do have.
The Passage does so much more than feed homeless people. The charity also exists to educate the homeless and help them get back on their feet by helping them work on their CV’s and by providing free internet access to enable them to look for jobs. The charity washes their clothes to ensure that they look presentable for interviews and they also organise workshops to help develop key skills that will give these people the best chance of success. The Passage also offers housing options to homeless people whenever possible.
After breakfast we cleaned and washed up, and then it was time to prepare for the next shift. Quite a few volunteers changed over at this point. Most of the volunteers I met were London pensioners – men and women – who volunteered for one or two shifts a week, and have done for many years.
Ben explained that they desperately need more volunteers. Find out more if you’d like to volunteer for the homeless.
Our lunch prep began by folding napkins and putting out cutlery, as well as filling fruit salad into plastic cups.
Chef served up a lunch of pea soup, haggis, gravy, potatoes, salad, tacos and ratatouille. Dessert was a delicious choice of fruit salad or chocolate.
I was pretty exhausted by this point and our responsibilities were still changing every half an hour. During and after lunch there’s a lot to clean up so after serving, tidying and clearing the plates it’s on to washing pots and dishes to ensure that the kitchen is ready for action the next day.
As the day drew to a close I had time to reflect on what was an incredibly interesting and emotional day. I was exhausted but so glad to have had the opportunity to help put a smile on the faces of people who need it most. I am hugely in awe of the people who volunteer their time regularly to help at Passage as its tough work; but their unwavering belief in the people they’re helping is inspiring and motivating, and I have no doubt that without these determined volunteers, homeless charities wouldn’t be able to change nearly as many lives as they do.
If you’d like to volunteer for the homeless or would be keen to show your support with online donations, please leave a comment below or get in touch.
Perhaps you’d be interested in another blog post – written through the eyes of a homeless person.