Why do I volunteer at the night shelter?
I've known about ASSIST since around 2015, but like many people with pressures of job and young family, it was difficult to think how I could offer to volunteer. It wasn't until 2018 that I heard about the night shelter and suddenly realised that this might be something I could do - I don't have to leave the house until after the kids' bedtime, and I finish in time to start work the next day. So, in part, the night shelter gives me an opportunity to volunteer but of course, as I've found out more about it I've realised the importance of the night shelter, providing a last resort to destitute asylum seekers and helping to ensure that no-one in that situation has to spend the night on the streets. It's an essential service and I'm glad to be a small part of the team which keeps it running night after night.
What I enjoy about it?
I've really enjoyed meeting clients from all over the world as well as other volunteers and welcomers. There is such a range of experiences and stories which we share in the hour before lights out.
What have I learned from it?
Just how hard and frustrating the asylum system is, and the terrible mental strain it places on people trapped within it. Sometimes conversations with clients are very hard as they are at the end of their tether. While the night shelter is essential, and is run so as to offer clients as much dignity and respect as possible, in the end nobody chooses to have to spend their night on the floor of a church hall. The continued need for the night shelter just highlights the vital importance of the rest of ASSIST's work in providing more secure housing and support for people in extremity, and wider action to drive change in our national approach to those seeking asylum.