Preventing homelessness in Reading

Volunteers’ Week: Launchpad volunteers give over 7,200 hours of their time to help prevent homeless

03 June 2019

It’s Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June) and we are celebrating Launchpad’s dedicated, talented and hardworking team of volunteers – who have a multitude of different skills and experience, and collectively gave an impressive 7,207 hours of their time last year to prevent homelessness in Reading.

Launchpad is lucky enough to have 130 volunteers who work closely with the charity’s 50 paid members of staff, and a third of volunteers work directly with clients. There are a wide range of volunteering roles across the organisation, which include providing housing and homelessness-related information and support at our drop-in service; running classes in sewing, art and gardening; helping clients learn how to use computers and search for jobs; and working in HR, admin and marketing. Our counselling service is run by four volunteer qualified counsellors, who offer clients a safe place to talk through their problems and an opportunity to tackle deep-rooted issues.

As part of our work to prevent street homelessness and partner with organisations across Reading to help those in housing need, Launchpad also provides two volunteers for each Severe Weather Emergency Provision (SWEP) night. If the Met Office forecasts that temperatures will drop below -1°C for three or more consecutive nights,  SWEP is activated and rough sleepers have access to an emergency bed at The Salvation Army hostel in central Reading. Our volunteers welcome people off the streets, and get them a hot drink and some food. We also provide beds, sleeping bags, towels and other resources whenever SWEP is activated.

Most of our volunteers commit to supporting us for six months, which can be of huge benefit to our clients who often have chaotic lives and come to depend on the same friendly face they are used to. Other volunteers support us on a more ad hoc basis and get involved by offering vital support at our fundraising events, whether that’s cheering on Launchpad runners during the Royal Berks 10K or marshalling at the Reading Half Marathon, looking after the registration desk at our Big Sleep Out, or giving talks about our work to local groups.

Sharon Mullis, Volunteering Team Leader at Launchpad, recruits and manages the volunteering team, along with her team. She said: “Launchpad simply couldn’t do the work we do to prevent homelessness in Reading without our volunteers. Our incredibly hardworking team of volunteers gave the charity 600 hours last month alone – which saves us a huge amount of money and means we are able to support even more people who don’t have a stable place to live or are at risk of losing their home in Reading.

“The volunteering team has really grown at Launchpad too. Just five years ago in 2014, we had 59 volunteers so we’ve more than doubled the team. I think more people are interested in giving their time to good causes than ever before and with lots of focus on the housing crisis in the media, and the increasing number of people facing homelessness, people are keen to do something to help.

“The great thing about volunteering is that anyone can do it – our volunteers range in age from 19-70 years old and bring all sorts of backgrounds, skills and experience with them. Volunteering doesn’t just have huge benefits for the charity either, there’s an awful lot in it for volunteers too. It’s incredibly rewarding, you feel like you’re part of something special, you meet lots of new and interesting people, and you can develop new skills and use the opportunity to build confidence. Many volunteers have gone onto to exciting new careers after being with Launchpad.”

Annabel has been volunteering for Launchpad for five years in a variety of roles including admin support, helping in arts and crafts sessions and putting together the volunteer newsletter. She said, “I don’t know if there’s another charity that is as good with their volunteers as Launchpad. Sharon and her team have been incredibly supportive – they are keen to help volunteers develop their skills, and if you want to do more, they are open to that. They make you feel appreciated and needed, and if you need any help or advice, they’re there. All the while I’ve got the time and enjoy it, I will continue volunteering – I hope to carry on volunteering for the rest of my life.”

You can read more about Sharon and our volunteers on our staff and volunteers page. If you’d like to enquire about volunteering for Launchpad, please email volunteers@launchpadreading.org.uk or telephone 0118 950 7656 and select option 4.