Hope Centre path from volunteering to employment

The Northampton Hope Centre is a local charity which welcomes people who are homeless, disadvantaged or vulnerable whatever their reasons and circumstances might be. The centre is based at Oasis House, near Northampton town centre and is well known throughout the local area. The centre looks after around 100 people each day and records over 20,000 visits per year with over 1000 clients.

The centre is managed by a mix of paid employees and volunteers who all passionately believe in what they do and take great pride and pleasure in looking after the Hope Centre’s community. One of their aims is to see people develop, move on and rebuild their lives. With education, training and development they help them to get jobs, move into their own homes and become positive and progressive citizens.

The Hope Centre has around 80 volunteers helping to keep the centre running. The volunteers come from a mixture of backgrounds from the Hope Centre’s clients, to business professionals who volunteer their time as trustees, to individuals wanting to volunteer as part of their faith. As part of their commitment to volunteering the centre has Lottery funding for three years to support clients to volunteer and through mentoring and training they hope for them to go on to paid employment.

The volunteering roles at the Hope Centre include working on the reception desk, befriending, working in the kitchen, cleaning, leading workshops and fund raising. Volunteers who are also clients of the centre enjoy it as they are doing something worthwhile with their time and giving something back to the service they have used themselves. Equally, volunteering roles help the client by removing some of the pressure that would come from paid employment. Sarah Passam, Volunteer Co-ordinator said “Some people have forgotten what they are capable of and have particularly low self-esteem, but through volunteering they are able to find something that they are good at.”

The Hope Centre offers a variety of different courses and training to assist its clients and volunteers, helping individuals to boost their employability and give them an opportunity to be part of a team. Some of the centre’s volunteers have gone onto become employees of the centre. These individuals include university placement students and clients of the Hope Centre.

Kataryna, previously a client of the Hope Centre volunteered as a cleaner for some time. When a vacancy arose with TLC, the cleaning company employed by Midland Heart to clean Oasis House, she applied for the role and was successful.

Brinley, a regular client at the centre volunteered on the reception desk at Oasis House and has since moved on and been employed by Hope Enterprises in their workshop. He is now qualified as a PAT tester.

Another of the Hope Centre’s success stories is Rachael who joined as a volunteer befriender; she was so good at her volunteer role that when the job of volunteer admin assistant was advertised she applied and was the successful candidate settling in quickly to her new role.

Julia is a client at the Hope Centre and was spotted by Sarah, the centre’s volunteer co-ordinator. Julia seemed to have great potential and Sarah encouraged her to volunteer as a befriender. To begin with Julia was sceptical as she was feeling as if she was “bottom of the pile and useless”. After trying it out she found that she actually quite enjoyed it and befriending other clients kept her busy. She enjoyed being part of a group that made her feel useful and needed. By becoming a volunteer befriender she is able to help other clients who want to talk. People trust her to speak to about private matters and in turn it makes Julia feel worthwhile and gives her a ‘buzz’ as well as feeling like she has made a difference.

While volunteering Julia has completed a number of training courses including food hygiene which not only has she enjoyed learning but she can use in the future. Following on from this volunteering role Julia has been employed at Hope Enterprises. Additionally, she helps out the Hope Centre by raising public awareness through  talks at schools to explain what homelessness is really like, a role which brings her a great deal of satisfaction.

Future plans

Sarah has lots of exciting plans for volunteering and encouraging clients of the Hope Centre into volunteering. She has made links with the local fire station and car garage with the idea of being able to offer individuals work-experience volunteering. She is also exploring working with a nearby Hilton hotel to establish a kitchen work experience programme for Hope Centre clients.

The Hope Centre’s programme of volunteering and moving many of its volunteers into paid employment is quite unique: to date the centre has employed 11 of its volunteers. They also recognise that for some clients paid employment will not work at that particular time in their life and for them volunteering is an excellent option. But for most who are lacking in self-worth and some basic skills, volunteering is an excellent stepping stone into work.