Ferndale – volunteer guidance


We are pleased you want to volunteer for the Ferndale Church Winter Night Shelter (CWNS). It is part of a unique partnership between local churches, Southend Borough Council and HARP. There may seem to be a lot to take in, especially if being thrown in at the deep end. However, you are part of a team that tries to support one another and where the welfare and health and safety of guests and volunteers is an important priority, as is trying to provide a peaceful and ordered environment. We try to allocate tasks according to interests and ability but always with the view to serve our guests as best we can.

Our main aim is to look after our guests for the 13 hours of so that they are with us, knowing for many life outside the shelters is “on the streets”. Guests comprise those who would be otherwise be sleeping rough on the streets if the night shelter provision were not available. There is a lot we don’t do, such as making available permanent accommodation or addressing support needs, but there is much we do do. We believe, based on feedback etc., we do make a difference and play our part in the bigger picture.

While we serve those of all faiths and none, and our volunteers may be from all faiths or none, we a Christian enterprise and try to deal with guests as if we were dealing with Christ himself, by being welcoming and empathetic. We offer food and refreshments and overnight accommodation in a safe setting. We do operate basic rules to do with respect, which we expect guests to follow. Sometimes, sadly, we exclude some who break those rules. Guests are referred to us by HARP but we may take some who self-refer if we have the space and upon taking into account health and safety considerations. We can accommodate up to 20 overnight guests, plus a few who come to us just for a meal.

We operate in the coldest months in a year (this year it is every night from 23rd November until 18th March). We are one of seven churches involved in the CWNS scheme. Our night is Friday and we are open from 1830 until 0830 the next day. We divide the session up into three shifts (1830 – 2200, 2130 – 0630, 0600 – 0830). Unless we agree otherwise, a “duty” comprises one of these shifts. There is a team leader for each shift (either myself or one of my deputies), to be referred to if in doubt about anything.

You will be allocated one or more shifts for your duty and typically you will be told this via email. Please note your slots and get back to me as soon as you can if you can’t do a duty – this is very important. Duties will be either allocated beforehand, e.g. if you are cooking, or on the night. We hope for a peaceful session but sometimes we have to attend to the unexpected, which given the issues many of our guests are experiencing is not altogether unsurprising, so a degree of flexibility is required. If you don’t have a specific task to do, this is often an opportunity to interact with the guests. It is intended to have team briefings at the beginning of the evening shift and on handing over to later shifts.


These cover the main duties (there will be others besides) and are given in mainly time order.

Evening shift (1830 – 2200)

  1. Putting out tables and chairs and generally getting the rooms ready
  2. Checking toilet area (to be done throughout the sessions)
  3. Laying tables, including refreshment table
  4. Checking in guests around 1915 (refer to duty manager if not on referral list or if any concerns)
  5. Cooking the meal (generally cater for around 30 with 3-4 veggies)
  6. Assisting the cook
  7. Serving meals to guests (aim for around 2000 – volunteers eat with guests)
  8. Clearing / cleaning tables, putting tables and chairs away
  9. Washing up and any clearing up operation
  10. Giving out sleeping gear (we aim to provide each guest his/her own sleeping bag and pillow plus blankets and mats as required) and allocating spaces to sleep in
  11. Serving evening refreshments
  12. Interacting with guests (e.g. talking, playing games)

Overnight shift (1830 – 2200)

  1. Helping guests to settle (try to get into quiet mode by 2230 and lights out 2300)
  2. Be available during night to assist if and when required (one person minimum stays awake)

Morning shift (0600 – 0830)

  1. Waking guests – gently (begins 0630 though some rise earlier and some later)
  2. Helping in breakfast preparation
  3. Putting out tables and chairs
  4. Collecting up and storing sleeping gear (placing bags and pillows in named bag for use next time)
  5. Serving breakfast (aim to begin at 0700)
  6. Clearing tables and washing up
  7. Cleaning tables, putting tables and chairs away
  8. Helping guests where appropriate (we give out limited clothes, toiletries and doggy bags)
  9. Bidding guests goodbye (aim to do this by 0800)
  10. Final clear / clean up – ensure premises is as spic and span as when we began the evening before

John Barber – Ferndale CWNS Manager 28/01/2016


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