volunteers

The Gatehouse could not operate without the generosity of those who support it financially, make food, and work during sessions. Volunteers are highly valued in this organisation, which prides itself in being volunteer-led. We hope you will find that working at the cafe is a privilege and actually good fun.

Information for volunteers

Those who wish to volunteer at the Gatehouse are required to attend a short induction in which Gatehouse policies and duties are explained, and during which any questions will be answered. If you know anyone who has expressed an interest in volunteering, ask them to telephone the office leaving their details, or e-mail admin@oxfordgatehouse.org

The team of paid workers will assess each volunteer’s availability and place them on the rota. If you are unable to work a session to which you are assigned, the office should be notified as soon as possible so that a replacement can be found. As an absolute minimum a team of at least nine volunteers and staff is needed to open; if you fail to turn up without letting us know, it could mean we cannot open that night.

Alternatively, if you turn up unexpectedly it may be difficult to incorporate you into the team (and you may have created unnecessary work for the person trying to put the team together!). It is therefore very important that you arrive no later than 4:30pm for a session beginning at 5:00pm (on Sundays, 3:30pm for 4:00pm) so that the co-ordinator can be assured of a full team of workers. If, for any reason, you cannot arrive by the specified time, please let us know you are going to be late. Be prepared to stay until 7:30pm (6:30pm on Sundays) in order to get the clearing-up done quickly and in time for the next group needing to access the hall.

Each session is supervised by the co-ordinator; volunteers should make themselves known to the co-ordinator on arrival, and accept this person’s authority. Project workers who are skilled and experienced will, with the co-ordinator and more senior volunteers, deal with any challenging situations that may arise. You will not be asked to do a job for which you are unprepared.

You can expect the help and support of your colleagues as you gain skills and confidence. Everyone should take care to avoid doing anything which may lead to a building up of tension and anxiety within the team.

Some Guests of the Gatehouse can at times display challenging behavior. However, any form of aggressive or discriminatory behavior is not tolerated. If you encounter these, make a quick retreat and report the incident to the co-ordinator or a project worker as we do not expect or advocate volunteers dealing with challenging behavior.

Occasionally things can go wrong and quick decisions must be made. No one should blame themselves for doing anything which with hindsight appears to have been a mistake. Whatever has happened, volunteers should reassure each other and themselves. Debriefings will be useful after any difficult situations: these provide an opportunity for unpleasant feelings to be expressed and recognized; for motives, reactions and anxieties to be talked out; and for lessons to be learnt for future use.

The Gatehouse was set up to help people who are street homeless or vulnerably housed. The Guests have a wide range of life experiences and some of those can include mental health/physical health problems, addiction issues, offenders and people without families and homes. However each person is an individual and should not be judged on their current circumstances.

The companionship and friendly welcome of the cafe is as much a part of our mission as the food we serve. Guests respond to the attention of volunteers who show an interest in their well-being. Over time, they will confide in them and feel that a relationship of trust has been formed. However, singling out any guest for preferential treatment is likely to lead to jealousy, hurt, and further damage, and that is why we cannot allow ourselves to become personally involved with guests. While at the project, every effort must be made to avoid the appearance of favoritism. Outside, volunteers should not pursue relationships with Guests and volunteers should always protect their privacy and safety by not revealing their surname, address, college, or place of work to any guest. In no circumstances should personal cash gifts be made. If this seems difficult or unreasonable, consider whether you are able to meet all the emotional and physical demands of any individual you may feel drawn to. Please read the professional boundaries and confidentiality policies included on this website.

At times we need to be realistic about potential risks in working at the Gatehouse (for this reason all volunteers must be over 18 and have signed the volunteer form). Many risks arise out of the circumstances of our Guests, and some have to do with the premises. Safety precautions and procedures have been set for the benefit of volunteers and Guests, and these should be followed. Additionally, you must take responsibility for your own safety, staying alert to danger and acting sensibly. Please read the code of conduct and managing risk policy included on this website.

Despite all attempts to prevent it, some guests use the Gatehouse as a place to take and deal drugs. We occasionally find bloody tissues or swabs, wrappers, syringes and needles (sharps) in the toilets or elsewhere. Extreme caution must be exercised when dealing with such items. Volunteers should never put their hands in a place they cannot see (between chair cushions, behind lavatories, in wall cavities) because of the risk of a needle stick injury.

If you find a syringe or needle, or any drug “works”, report it to the co-ordinator or a project worker immediately, taking care to prevent other volunteers or guests from disturbing the items. Only co-ordinators and project workers who have been briefed on the safe handling of such paraphernalia may dispose of them, using special apparatus for the purpose.

If you suspect drug use or drug dealing (the smell of cannabis, groups of people in the toilets, the exchange of money in the hall, or a marked change of behavior or demeanor on the part of a guest), notify the co-ordinator immediately and be prepared to describe what you have observed.

It is vital to be welcoming and positive at the Gatehouse and most Guests, most of the time, are polite and appreciative of our efforts. At the same time, it is self-evident that challenging behavior can be a fact of life for people, and this can become a problem.

No volunteer should feel threatened by a Guest and we will ban Guests if we think they are a risk to others.
The first thing to do when in an uncomfortable situation is to get out of it. Make an excuse (such as that you are needed elsewhere), or just leave. Then, report the incident to the co-ordinator or one of the project workers, who will decide on the next step. Similarly, if you suspect that a colleague is being harassed by a Guest, offer a get-out option (‘I think you’re needed in the kitchen’) so that they can easily make an excuse.

The Guests have devised a code of conduct at the project and we are lucky that most people follow this.

 

We aim to provide good quality and nutritious food for our guests. We rely on a large number of volunteers to make sandwiches and bake cakes for us. Most of our food is provided by church and other groups who have their own rotas so that the burden on any one individual is not too great. If you would like to help with this, please contact us (admin@oxfordgatehouse.org).

It is most useful if we know what is coming to allow us to plan what we need to provide ourselves; it is therefore ideal if our suppliers give the same thing at fixed intervals (eg monthly). We are delighted to accept small donations; please contact us to find out the kinds of things we use.

We also consume large quantities of chocolate spread, peanut butter, fruit, eggs, cheese, milk, salad cream and mayonnaise and various other ingredients. Please get in touch if you would like to help by donating something. Fruit is popular and something we are keen to encourage as healthy food is often seen as an un-affordable luxury for many of our Guests.

Many of the local shops and restaurants in Oxford donate food to us which they cannot use.  We are also very grateful for supplies of items via the Oxford FoodBank.  If you are able to help in this way, please contact us as shown above.

If you decide to want to help us with donating soup or sandwiches and cakes there is a Food Safety Handbook on the website which you will need to read and sign before starting. We also require a food allergen sticker to be completed for each item, which you can pick up from the office or we can post to you. It is not as complicated as it sounds and you can contact us on (admin@oxfordgatehouse.org) if you need support. 

Information about providing food

Sandwiches

If you’re preparing sandwiches, there are four types of sandwiches we ask for (each session) to be made, ham, tuna and mayo, egg and mayo and cheese. There should be two loaves of each type prepared. If you’re preparing the sandwiches a completed allergen sticker should be included for each type of sandwich to let us know what ingredients are used for the well-being of our guests. Please read and sign the Food Safety Handbook included on this website.

Cakes

If you’re preparing cakes a completed allergen sticker should be included for each type of cake.  it’s the same as sandwiches as an allergen sticker should be stuck on each cake, so that we can look out for the well-being of our Guests. Please read and sign the Food Safety Handbook included on this website.

Soup

The Gatehouse also provides home-made soup in the winter. We hope to expand the list of people who are willing to make soup for us according to a rota so that a fresh supply is maintained. We are also looking for someone to help with organizing the delivery and sorting of donated soup – taking about one hour a week during the daytime (preferably Tuesday morning).  If you are interested in helping in any way, please contact soup@oxfordgatehouse.org. Please also read and sign the Food Safety Handbook included on this website.

Non-perishables

We also use a large amount of non-perishable food stuff e.g. sauces, mayonnaise etc. sandwich bags and tinned items like tuna, condiments e.g. salt and pepper and lots of sugar. If you help out with donating these it be very much appreciated.

What donations of food and clothes we need

We have a very small clothes store and are not able to stockpile huge amounts of clothing.  But we are always asked for the following items and would be very pleased to receive any second hand or new ones that might be donated:

  • Socks
  • Boxer shorts
  • Women’s pants
  • Hats
  • Gloves
  • Tee shirts
  • Any men’s clothing and shoes

There are the [non-perishable] staples that we depend on to provide the usual nightly Gatehouse service:

  • Coffee
  • Sugar
  • Peanut butter
  • Chocolate spread
  • Bovril
  • Branston pickle
  • Tuna

Then there are the personal items that guests often ask for:

  • Shaving things
  • Candles
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo/shower gel

These are the things that we like to keep in reserve to give to guests as individual “welcome packs” when they move into accommodation of their own (N.B. the smaller the better):

  • Coffee
  • Sugar
  • Toothbrushes

Finally, here is a list of things that at the moment we have more than enough of or actually can’t use:

  • Cereal
  • Marmalade
  • Baked beans
  • Tea
  • Jam
  • Honey

(If we do receive them we either include them in a welcome pack or pass them on to one of the other agencies for homeless people.)

Many Thanks

 

The policies on this website are for information and guidance for volunteers, but feel free to ask us any questions when we meet!!

Please either complete the volunteer form (which you can download from this page) and bring it with you when you come to your induction, or we can print one for you when you visit.  Thank you!