Drop-in Centres: How They Work and Who Can Help
Drop-in centres offer an informal centre where vulnerable children and adults can find shelter, entertainment and support. Volunteer and you will find that they serve diverse groups in the community from single parents to youths in danger of getting caught up in drugs or crime.
They are often the initiative of local community groups and meet people’s needs at a grass roots level.
People don’t need referrals to go to a drop-in centre, it is an open, friendly place which is accessible to all. Giving your time brings all the rewards of working as part of a team to make a practical difference to people’s lives.
Who can Volunteer?There are no particular qualifications required to get involved. Enthusiasm and an open mind are far more important. You will need to be friendly and positive in outlook and get on with all kinds of people. You must believe in equal opportunities and have a desire to empower people. Beyond that any practical or soft skills that you may bring can be helpful in supporting centre users.
What is Involved?The main aim of drop-in centres is to encourage people to socialise and combat social isolation. Centres are devoted to many different groups of people including disabled people, single parents, young people, people with learning difficulties, people with mental health issues, the unemployed, ex-offenders, people facing health conditions such as cancer. Tasks available for volunteers will vary depending on the needs of the centre.
Almost all centres are user-led and informal so you will need to be able to listen to the users and to be flexible. It is important that people feel heard and understood. Self-help is encouraged and one of your roles will be to motivate people and perhaps enable them to live independently in the community.
You may arrange and take part in activities such as games and quizzes. Help out with arts and crafts, relaxation classes or fitness classes. Meals are often a focus for the day and you could help to cook and serve dishes or support users to prepare food in the kitchen.
You will work with professional staff to create a warm and inclusive environment. Chat with people who may not have seen anyone else all day, listen to their problems and concerns and give help and practical advice. Support people to live independently by assisting them with life skills such as managing a budget. You could also assist with childcare to help someone study or go to a job interview.
There may be workshops and educational programmes on topics such as confidence, assertiveness, filling out forms or creating a CV. Often users may have low self-esteem and you will help them to regain confidence and overcome barriers to achieve their goals. You may liaise with other services, create partnerships and networks and refer people on where necessary. You may also get involved in accompanying groups on outings to social events.
Other areas where volunteers can help is in publicising the centre by leafleting, producing a newsletter or giving talks to groups. Staff may also welcome your assistance with fundraising or organising events. Volunteers usually feel that they quickly become part of a team and many make new friendships amongst staff and users alike.