Published on: April 28, 2023
HARP, Southend’s leading homelessness charity, helps around 1,000 people every year who are affected by homelessness. HARP relies on a pool of around 100 volunteers who help to run their services at any one time.
HARP volunteers play an essential role in helping local people overcome homelessness, whether they are assisting in one of their charity shops, preparing and serving breakfast or lunch in the Bradbury Day Centre, or helping HARP residents in supported accommodation.
HARP caught up with some of its volunteers to hear about their experiences supporting those affected by homelessness.
“There is a strong sense of community with everyone at HARP. Everyone helps out with whatever needs doing, it’s very balanced and a lot of teamwork.”
Tom, like many other volunteers, has experienced HARP’s services firsthand and wants to use his knowledge to support those going through similar situations, whether that be through helping out in the kitchen or at fundraising events.
“I was homeless so I have seen both sides. HARP helped me, so it feels like I am giving back.”
When asking its volunteers what their favourite part about volunteering for HARP is, Chef Darren had this to say:
“What I enjoy the most about volunteering is the fulfilment. It’s doing stuff for other people, seeing them get well, and seeing them appreciate what’s being done. It’s the little “thank you’s” I get here and there all the little nudges and recognition. My ultimate aim is to feed them and to make them feel some kind of spiritual nourishment for the day that may get them through, it may even save their life because it did mine.”
Long-time volunteer Karina said she found it “difficult not being able to cook for everyone in lockdown.”
“I really missed it. Even in lockdown I made cakes and left them on the doorstep. I love volunteering because any one of us could be in that position if we don’t get a couple of pay checks. It’s only a few hours a week, so if you can afford the time – do it! It’s so rewarding!”
Eddie has been volunteering with HARP for six months and said since then his “perspective of homeless people has changed.”
“You never know if someone is homeless as they look just like me or you. My favourite thing to see is that people appreciate the help and that it means something to them. Getting back that joy – it drives me. Something drives you to come back, even if you’re not earning anything.”
Volunteer Darren expands on his reasoning as to why he decided to volunteer for HARP and what he likes about the organisation.
“I see a compassionate organisation wanting genuinely and sincerely to get people off the streets and into a life that is meaningful and purposeful. They do care. They have a genuine care for me as a person, I’m not just a volunteer, I’m a person with a life experience that they want to help, just as much as they want to help those we are volunteering for.”
HARP has a wide variety of voluntary positions available. If you would like to use your skills and experiences to help those affected by homelessness, you can apply for a volunteer vacancy directly, or fill out the volunteer enquiry form at www.harpsouthend.org.uk/volunteer