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Volunteering at HOS: September Update

September has been another busy month!

We have completed the induction process with our third Housing Buddy, Fiona Russell. Fiona had a long and varied career in housing, working in different housing associations. She was also involved in the development of housing education at Stirling University where she worked for 6 years before retiring a few years ago. We are all super excited to have Fiona on board!

We also completed a further Case Study with one of our Military Matters clients, Frank in Dunbar. You can read the case study here.

We have also made great plans for other aspects of the volunteering, including a recruitment drive for the ‘Welcome to your (new) area!’ guides which we are producing to support clients. We will have more progress to share with you about these next month!

Meet the Housing Buddies: Shirley Watson

We spoke to our new Housing Buddies at the beginning of the programme, finding out more about their background and hopes for their involvement with the project. In this first interview, we meet Shirley Watson.

  1. Tell us a bit about yourself – what’s your experience in the housing sector?
    I am 66 years old, retired, and living in Forfar, Angus with my partner and cat. My experience in the housing sector comes from approximately 18 years working with Scottish Homes/Communities Scotland/Scottish Government in both Admin and Investment Officer/Community Regeneration funding roles, mainly in the Glasgow area. The last 9-10 years of my working life were spent with West of Scotland Housing Association as a Senior Development Officer where I oversaw new build projects in Glasgow and South Ayrshire mainly.
  2. Why did you want to get involved with Housing Buddies?
    Being retired, I am keen to keep active mentally and physically. I already volunteer with 2 charities and when I saw the ad for Housing Buddies, I felt it was something I could contribute to. I have the time, and I am still extremely interested in the housing sector.
  3. What are you looking forward to most about being a Housing Buddy?
    Meeting new people and being able to help people as and when they need it, to the best of my ability.
  4. Why do you think Housing Buddies is an important programme?
    I think the Housing Buddies programme is an excellent idea as it is targeting people in housing need to help them get the most appropriate housing for them. It will also free up Housing Options Scotland staff to concentrate on helping more people if Housing Buddies can take on some of the more mundane tasks!
  5. Why is volunteering important to you?
    As I have said, I already volunteer with 2 charities in a fundraising role. I have volunteered with one of these charities for 25 years now and mean to continue. Volunteering is important to me because (1) it gives me the opportunity to meet new people; (2) it builds confidence and self-esteem; (3) it means I can help those in need in the best way I can; and (4) it gives me a role in society now that I am no longer working.

Volunteering at HOS: August Update

In the third update post of the blog, we reflect on what’s been happening in August

We have made lots of progress with the volunteer programme this month!

On the Housing Buddies front, we have completed inductions with 2 new volunteers – Lindsay Roches (pictured above) and Shirley Watson. A third induction is organised for September! It’s really exciting that the project is now live and we can’t wait to share more updates about how the volunteers and clients get on soon.

Pictured above are Chris and Julie Fisher, two of our volunteers based in Cardross. I enjoyed visiting Chris and Julie to complete another workshop with them about what ideas they have for the volunteering programme. They were both excited about the blog idea, as well as opportunities for outreach volunteers and Housing Buddies. We have plans to work together to bring these ideas to fruition! You can read more about the Volunteer Workshops here.

Below is Stacey and her son, Aaron. I had the pleasure of meeting Stacey and Aaron when Stacey volunteered to feature in a case study for us. You can read the case study here.

Volunteer Workshops

This blog post reflects on some of the discussions we had as part of the Volunteer Workshops conducted to gather views/ideas about what the volunteer programme at HOS should look like.

To get a handle on the current volunteer programme and assess potential directions to take it in, I designed a workshop to gather the thoughts of current volunteers. The design of the workshop went through several iterations;

Initially, I planned on hosting a large in-person event in Edinburgh/Glasgow. Given difficulties in finding appropriate venues / dates for people to attend, I decided this was not feasible. Following this, I decided to move the workshop online. The idea was that this would give as many people as possible the opportunity to take part – nobody would be restricted by geography or time. An online workshop was designed using Padlet. I tested the workshop with one volunteer – Danny – but we decided that aspects of the workshop were difficult to navigate online. You can see the workshop here. As a middle-ground solution, I decided to host several, small, in-person workshops instead. These happened in Edinburgh (25th July), Glasgow (7th August) and Cardross (8th August) – 5 people took part in total. The small workshops were informal and covered the topics from the online workshop.

What did we discuss?

The workshop covered three main topics –  

  1. Discussing why HOS should seek to develop its volunteer programme and why individuals might want to volunteer with HOS
  2. Assessing the current volunteer programme and identifying gaps / opportunities for development therein
  3. Thinking about prioritisation – which aspects of the volunteering programme should we focus on first?

As part of these discussions we looked at certain aspects of volunteering in detail – e.g. the development of a volunteer blog and the Housing Buddies programme.

What ideas came from the workshop?

It became clear that volunteers were keen to design a volunteer programme which fitted around the journey of clients. We discussed how the volunteer programme should support the work of HOS at each of the following touch-points:

1. Promoting HOS, 2. Supporting clients during their housing journey, 3. Helping with next steps

Promoting HOS
Volunteers felt it was important that their role supported HOS to grow the number of clients we support, and get the information out there that help is available. A number of ways of doing this were discussed:

Attending externally organised events with HOS (with adequate training provided). There was some discussion about the value of attending large conferences and whether this was the best use of time/resources. Smaller events were discussed as being favourable.

Establishing local links
Visiting local groups and passing out information about HOS there – establishing ‘links’ with appropriate organisations and acting as a local point of contact for anyone interested in our work. Suggestions for places where we could build local links included other charities and voluntary groups; MPs and Cllrs (locally); health centres; community centres.

Supporting clients during their housing journey

We discussed how our volunteers can complement the work of the staff team in supporting clients throughout their housing journey. Part of this involved reflecting on the HOSmates peer support programme designed in previous years. Several ideas were discussed:

Housing Buddies
The new Housing Buddies programme was considered. We discussed what kinds of things buddies could support with – accompanying clients to property viewings/homelessness interviews, interpreting letters/emails, explaining housing related systems/processes in detail. It was agreed that this support would be useful.

We discussed developing a separate volunteer blog taking inspiration from other charities (e.g. Age Scotland). We discussed possible blog posts/entries and whether these would be valuable. It was agreed that celebrating the work of our volunteers via the blog was important, and also the sharing of information and stories of former clients to give hope/reassurance to people as part of their housing journey. It was also suggested that the blog could contain posts including ‘tips’ and checklists for moving into a new home e.g. how to get the best deal on energy/broadband contracts. There was some concern about whether the blog would be the best way of engaging people as it would be hosted online and not everyone has access to the internet.

Volunteers also discussed the HOSmates programme. We discussed how previous difficulties in getting the programme off the ground meant that it would be important to look at other ways of offering emotional support to clients – e.g. through the blog and check in calls (below)

Settling down / finding a housing solution

We discussed opportunities for volunteers to support clients once a housing solution has been found. Our ideas centred around the idea of using the volunteer programme to support clients to “make a house a home”:

‘Welcome to your area’ directory:
Volunteers spoke about the first steps they had when moving into their new home and getting to know the local area. At the moment HOS provide an information sheet which covers local housing association contacts to make this process smoother. We discussed the idea of expanding this to include details about local charities / organisations which can support in a whole host of ways. Volunteers could produce one of these for their local area.

Volunteer ‘check-in’
We discussed the possibility of having local volunteers make contact with clients a few months after they have settled into their new/adapted home (and area). This would be an outreach call where volunteers would see if HOS could support with anything – e.g. checking that clients are set up with furniture and are unpacked; showing how to book groceries online or how to compare energy/broadband deals; touring the local area together. The idea would be to have volunteers on hand to support individuals to make their new house a home.

Other ideas were also discussed – e.g. developing community fundraising plans – but volunteers were less keen about this.

What about prioritisation?

At the end of the workshop I wanted to get a sense from volunteers which aspect of the volunteer programme would be the best to focus on initially. This would help me to establish a timeline for my work, looking at the ideas the volunteers thought were most useful first, other ideas second.

I split the ideas into three categories and gave the group 10 tokens to split amongst the different sections of the volunteering – the more tokens meant more focus from me on developing that part of the volunteering. The categories were:

1. Online work (covering the blog, case studies, )

2. In person work (events attendance, making links with local groups)

3. Something else (e.g Housing Buddies, ‘Welcome to your area’ directory)

In total, the tokens were split:

What next?

The workshops have been useful in providing me with steer about what our volunteers would like to be involved in. They have also revealed a good way of framing volunteering in terms of the journey of our clients, and offering support at each of those touch-points. Going forward I am:

  • Writing up guidance for how volunteers should contact local groups and creating a log for where/when local contact is made
  • Working with volunteers to produce a ‘Welcome to your area’ guide; I am producing a template for volunteers to populate and edit with me
  • Developing the blog further
  • Conducting three inductions for the Housing Buddies programme
  • Writing up guidance for the volunteer check-in calls

Volunteering at HOS: July Update

In this post, our Volunteer Coordinator, Ben, reflects on updates with the Volunteer Programme from July.

July has been another busy month!

We have begun our volunteer workshops, gathering ideas from current volunteers about what they want the volunteer programme at HOS to achieve. Pictured above is Danny, working through our online workshop.

July also saw us launch our Housing Buddies programme and recruitment. We published an article in Scottish Housing News and put a call out via the Chartered Institute of Housing. You can find out more about Housing Buddies here, and read the article here.

Volunteering at HOS: June Update

In the first post of the blog, our Volunteer Coordinator, Ben, reflects on what’s been happening with the volunteer programme in June.

June has been a busy month – meeting people, making plans and learning lots about volunteering!

I have been in touch with lots of volunteers, making plans to host a ‘What next for volunteering at HOS?’ workshop. In that workshop we will exchange ideas about what we think the value of volunteering at HOS is, and what ideas we have for the volunteer programme. It’s been lots of fun making contact with – and speaking to – lots of the volunteer team for the first time.

I have also attended a training course with Volunteer Scotland, teaching me all about how to structure and coordinate a volunteer programme. This means that all my planning is now grounded in good practice. I’m excited to get started and share what we get up to!