The Robes Project - Volunteers Required

We need volunteers to help run the Cathedral Robes Night Shelter

The Cathedral supports Robes Winter Night Shelter for homeless people; first, by hosting and organising a SleepOut event on 30 November, which aims to raise £130K; and secondly in running a shelter venue during the winter at Christ Church Blackfriars Road for 12 weeks from the 25 January 2019 on a Friday evening/Saturday morning. 

The night shelters operate at two venues each night for the winter period.  To spread the load of volunteering two churches open their doors for 23 weeks to provide a warm welcome, good food, a comfortable and dry bed. At our shelter we are one of the few lucky enough to be able to provide hot showers and laundry facilities. Practically this means that guests move each night from one church to another, and the volunteers can come from 14 church communities each week to make it all possible. To make things run smoothly on the night we need about 10 volunteers each week.  Each evening is led by a Team Leader who is on hand during the evening and will support everyone before we start the shelter; we will also take references and for some activities volunteers will need a DBS, we will also ensure safeguarding training is given to everyone.

The kind of things we need help with are:

  • Cooking. Each Friday night we will serve dinner for our guests and fellow volunteers.  We try and all sit down to eat together at about 8 o clock.  We  cater for those guests who do and don’t eat meat, and also for any specific dietary requirements.  We will serve a main meal and a pudding and try and mix up the menu for our guests.  Normally two cooks work to cover the main and the pudding each night so if you enjoy cooking for a large number of people and could commit to one or more Fridays during the 12 weeks this might be for you. We will also prepare a cooked breakfast in the morning, and although this is simpler than the evening meal it will still need a couple of people in the kitchen and helpers to serve and tidy up.
  • Signing in and welcoming.   Each night we will have an agreed guest list, and on arrival we want to check they are ok and help them find a bed and bedding for the night.   Ideally for this task if you are good at putting people at ease and a reasonably well organised administrator then this might be for you.
  • Settling in.    During the evening some guests might want to take time to relax alone and others might want to be more sociable by watching TV together, playing chess or other board games or reading papers/ magazines.  If you are good with interacting with people and allowing people to relax, chat and have fun as well as having good emotional intelligence to know when to listen or leave people alone then this might be for you.
  • Setting up beds and tables.  As we use the church hall for one night of the week, and during the rest of the week it is used for other groups we need to set up 20 beds each week.  This takes time before guests arrive, and this year a class is taking place just before us shortening the time we have to make up and then set up the room.  If you are fairly fit and able to move flat pack tables and assemble camp beds either before guests arrive or to help put everything away on Saturday morning this might be for you.  On a Saturday morning we are tight for time and will need help in washing up, putting beds and bedding away and aiming to be out of the hall for another group who hire the hall on a Saturday from 9 o’ clock.  Our aim is to leave the hall clean and tidy as if we have never been there the night before.  We have tried to make eating dinner as relaxed as we can, and within the constraints of the building are aiming for a relaxed Friday night feel with friends so setting up for dinner includes setting the table, folding napkins, sorting flowers etc.
  • Washing clothes.  We are lucky to have an onsite washing machine and tumble dryer on site.  Many of our guests may have a week’s clothing to wash and dry.  If you can organises multiple loads of washing and organise things to get them back to the right owner then this might be for you.
  • Toiletries and clothes.  We are lucky that we have a supply of donated toiletries and clothes for our guests.   If you can sort through them and provide a selection to guests then this might be for you.
  • Sleep over.  people tend to be in bed for 10.30 and sleeping as they have been out all day.  During the night two volunteers will sleep over to be on hand if any guests need anything and to open up in the morning.  A DBS check is required for this role.

Other skills

For a number of our guests, English is not their first language.  If you have conversational European languages your help in general communication will be really helpful.

Last year we had one volunteer who was a barber who gave his time to cut hair, trim beards and shave our guests.  He is hopefully going to be with us again this year but if you have any other specific skills that you think might help our guests please don’t be shy.

We appreciate that you may have some costs to allow you to volunteer and we will reimburse reasonable costs.  For example if you are cooking you may want to claim for the costs of ingredients.

Next Steps

If you feel this is something you would like to become involved or have any questions please email one of the team leaders,  Marlene Collins,  or Neil Tryner or Amanda Hill stating which areas you feel best able to help with, and your preferred dates to volunteer during our 12 weeks. 

We will then be in touch to meet up and answer any questions and work out a rota to fit volunteers together and look forward to working together.