Re: Making use of volunteers

Tom Boland (
Fri, 3 Apr 1998 00:46:36 -0800 (PST)

"How do you make use of volunteers?" who want to help homeless people, asks
Anitra.  She's been faced with the question repeatedly, as I have.

Here's the gist of some advice I give when asked about volunteering:

1)  Taylor your work toward homeless people's own aims, not your agenda
"for" them

2)  Know your motives for wanting to help - what you want for yourself.

3)  Treat homeless people as peers, not "charges"

4) Get to know people - homeless and nonhomeless - before you spend time
alone with them.

5)  Make sure any money you give goes - as directly as possible - to
homeless and poor people who help their neighbors.

Along with Anitra, I invite others to comment, amend and expand on our tips
for volunteers.

Thanks for writing, Anitra.--Tom

Anitra wrote tonight:
>.....I responded that 1) you will be most effective doing
>something that excites and enthuses *you*; 2) some needed assistance
>requires additional training -- don't expect to walk in off the street and
>be greeted with open arms, you will have to make major commitments and
>prove yourself before you are able to actually work with children, abused
>women, several other populations in need; then 3) I listed some needs and
>what individuals can do about them.
>I talked about the need for shelter, of all kinds, and some of the ways
>that community members can work with homeless organizations to open up new
>shelter in abandoned or under-utilized buildings.  I talked about the need
>for community,and the importance of relating with live homeless people,
>one-on-one -- not just tossing a check to United Way.  And I talked about
>the effectiveness of self-managed, grassroots projects over
>bureaucratically-applied "solutions", and urged the folks I talked to to
>send any of their donations to programs that the homeless themselves are
>involved in running.

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