Turning Tides seeks volunteer befrienders to combat isolation

Befriend the homeless

Throughout the pandemic Turning Tides’ befriending volunteers have been critical in supporting the growing number of men and women who have become homeless. The charity are now looking to grow the service significantly to combat the isolation that is often experienced by those having to sleep rough.

Danielle Huet, Volunteer Coordinator at Turning Tides explains; “During the pandemic we have been providing a befriending service to combat the feelings of loneliness that our clients were increasingly experiencing, especially during lockdown. The benefits have been so significant during such a challenging time that we are launching a new befriending drive – to secure more befrienders countywide as part of our Routes to Roots programme.”

“The Routes to Roots initiative helps people recover from the experience of homelessness and feel part of their local community. It has a really comprehensive matching process whereby we pair a volunteer with a client who has similar interests so they can establish a supportive non-judgemental connection. The relationship is a very powerful one, so whilst being informal and voluntary, it looks to build strength and resilience in very real and practical ways. It could involve attending a community group together or meeting up for a coffee in the park. Having a companion who listens, is non-judgemental, and kind is very restorative. During the befriending relationship the client can gain confidence and self-worth which in turn bolsters their resilience and empowerment – which is critical in helping a client navigate their journey out of homelessness.”

Turning Tides - end local homelessness
Turning Tides – end local homelessness

David, who has been attending befriending sessions throughout the pandemic and currently resides in supported accommodation with Turning Tides, attested; “Before the Befriending scheme I was totally alone… without the social skills that seem second nature to most people. I wouldn’t meet, or have conversation with anyone for weeks on end. The scheme has given purpose to my life. It may seem a small thing to many, but for me, it is vital. Once every week, I meet and talk with someone that actually wants to talk to me.”

Another client called Andy recounted that the service had been a ‘blessing’; “Befriending gives me a feeling of self-worth, support, belonging. Knowing someone cares is an amazing feeling. I have more confidence and hope now, as I tackle my social anxiety.”

Research has shown that over three quarters of the men and women who have experienced homelessness also reported prolonged periods of loneliness, more than three times the level of loneliness reported amongst older people.* Loneliness can be detrimental both emotionally and physically and is often referred to as a silent killer. Undeniably, it has been of increasing concern during the pandemic. Multiple lockdowns, alongside social distancing measures, have prevented us from joining sociable and leisurely pursuits.

As restrictions ease, Turning Tides is looking to grow their befriending service, to ensure the increasing number of clients needing their services are able to access such a vital source of support across the county. Particularly, they are looking for potential volunteer befrienders in the Horsham area.

Danielle continues “We are hoping to recruit a further 50 volunteers who would then be matched with clients within the local area. Volunteers will have access to comprehensive training and check in sessions to ensure they are confident in their role. Hopefully, as restrictions ease, they will also be able to accompany clients to appointments, helping to motivate them to join community groups or fulfil goals and develop skills which will ultimately help to prepare them for the future when they move on to independent living.”

If you would like to find out more about the Routes to Roots programme or submit your interest in becoming a befriender please visit Turning Tides’ website: www.turning-tides.org.uk/volunteering/ or contact the team on:

Email: volunteering@turning-tides.org.uk

Phone: 01903 680743

Turning Tides recently launched a Crisis Appeal as record numbers of local people are experiencing homelessness due to the economic impact of Covid. You can find out more and how to support the charity at www.turning-tides.org.uk


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