Giving back to the homeless community through volunteering

With busy lives it can be really hard for us to find time to volunteer, but giving in simple ways doesn’t just help to improve your health and happiness. It can even teach you new skills – all while supporting communities in need.

As part of the City & Guilds Group’s community investment programmes, all employees are entitled to take part in volunteering opportunities. Last month, I decided that I wanted to do something to help homeless people, so three of us from the Corporate Relations team volunteered at The Whitechapel Mission – a homeless charity that has been serving the homeless and marginalised for 140 years.

Homelessness and skills development

Whilst homelessness is a big problem across the world, there are no real international figures as the number is recorded differently in each nation. Last week Shelter published new statistics showing that over 250,000 people are homeless in the UK. The main hotspots for homelessness are London, Brighton, Luton and Birmingham. This Christmas, they estimate that 120,000 children will be homeless. 

The Whitechapel Mission is open every day of the year and can have as many as 300 homeless and vulnerable men and women attending. What struck me most about the work that they do is that it offers more than just a place to keep warm and eat. It offers people facilities to shower and the opportunity to meet with a careers advisor who can help them with CV writing and job hunting.

Having no job is both a major cause and consequence of homelessness. Research from Crisis has found that the vast majority of homeless people want to work either now (77%) or in the future (97%). However, there are a number of barriers that prevent them from doing so.

It’s no surprise that training and education can give homeless people the skills and confidence required to get them on track in finding a job but they need the support to be able to develop the skills and confidence. Crisis has also found that 60% of homeless people have low level, or no qualifications and are five times less likely than the wider population to be in employment. It’s great that The Whitechapel Mission is committed to helping with this by offering workshops in CV writing and job hunting.

The volunteering experience

On arrival at the Mission, the volunteers were met by the people responsible for the smooth running of the programme. You can volunteer in a team of as little as seven people but the more people in your team, the quicker you’re likely to get through things. We joined up with a team from another company for our session. Each volunteer is assigned a task. These include making porridge, toasting and buttering bread, frying eggs and cooking the bacon, sausages, beans and tomatoes. At 6am the doors open for hot drinks and from about 7am people can get toiletries to have a shower, wash or shave. At 8am, things start to get really busy as the shutters go up and hot breakfasts are served.

During our volunteering day, the queue was understandably very busy for breakfast as there were lots of hungry people to feed. The team all worked frantically together and tried to get into a routine to make things a bit easier (and quicker!).

Before we knew it, because we were rushed off our feet, it was 10am and time to stop serving food. By this point I felt relieved that we were near the end, but I also felt really grateful for the whole experience.


It’s quite easy to get lost in day to day stuff and just expect things to go right. But to have good health and a roof over your head makes you incredibly lucky and blessed. I am so proud to work for an organisation that encourages and allows employees to support their local communities.

Throughout December, the City & Guilds Group will be supporting and raising awareness of a number of homeless charities. We’ll be raising money through our annual Christmas jumper day on Friday 16th December, we will be taking part in homeless volunteering opportunities in the New Year and will be running workshops in London for employees to find out more about the work that Providence Row do. You can find out more about our CSR work here.

And more about all of the homeless support charities on their websites listed below.

The Whitechapel Mission –

Crisis –

Shelter –

Providence Row –

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Polly joined the City & Guilds Group in 2011 as a Personal Assistant and Team Coordinator. She is now the Communications Executive within the Communications and Content team. Polly now works on a variety of communication projects such as acquisitions, investments and sustainability related communications.

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