FAQs for Christmas Volunteers (London)

Crisis is a national charity, however, our Christmas centres currently only operate in London, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Coventry. This information relates to London centres only. To apply for Crisis at Christmas in London please fill in our online application form (please note that we will only be accepting applications from the beginning of October).

Before you volunteer

Preparing for Crisis at Christmas

During volunteering

Before you volunteer

When is Crisis at Christmas open?

Day centres

Our Day Centres open from noon on 23 December and close by 9.00 pm on 29 December. The opening hours are 9.00 am until 9.00 pm.

Rough sleepers centres

Our residential Rough Sleepers Centres are open 24 hours, and provide sleeping facilities for guests from either 22 or 23 December until the morning of 30 December. 

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Where are the centres located?

Our centres in London are in Zones 1-3. They are located in buildings that are donated to Crisis for use over Christmas only, such as schools, colleges and empty buildings.

Our day centres will be located in:

  • North London
  • East London
  • South London
  • South East London
  • West London

Full addresses and maps are available on the online application.

For security and confidentiality reasons, the locations of our residential rough sleepers centres are confidential and full addresses can only be provided once volunteers have been confirmed into that centre. Where possible, we give an idea of centre location via ‘whereabouts’ maps on the online application. These give a rough idea of location without detailing the exact address.

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What are the different centres?

Day centres

Our five day centres are for guests who have accommodation of some kind, such as hostels, B&Bs, those who are sofa surfing or obtain their accommodation via different sources. These centres open from 9 am to 9 pm, providing breakfast, lunch and dinner for all guests as well as learning opportunities, activities, entertainment and essential services such as advice and healthcare. The day centres cater for up to 250 guests each and are open to all. If a guest is assessed to be in need of more specialist services, they may be referred to the appropriate residential rough sleepers centre.

Rough sleepers centres

There are five residential rough sleepers centres for guests who are assessed to be most in need of essential services:

  • Outreach Rough Sleepers Centre where guests are referred by their outreach workers
  • Link Rough Sleepers Centre for guests not yet linked into year round services
  • Winters Rough Sleepers Centre for guests referred by Winter Night Shelters, which offer temporary overnight accommodation in churches
  • The Gate Rough Sleepers Centre for those with alcohol or drug dependencies
  • Women’s Rough Sleepers Centre for vulnerable women

These centres are open 24 hours and provide meals and sleeping facilities as well as the full range of services and activities.

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What roles can I apply for?

You can sign up as a General Volunteer or join one of our Services, Logistics or Activities teams.  

As a General Volunteer, you will be one of 8,000 sociable and helpful people who work on a variety of tasks such as welcoming guests to our centres, serving food, sorting bedding and generally making sure things go to plan. A big part of General Volunteer job is getting to know our guests and providing a familiar face. No special expertise is needed, just a general willingness to get involved and a desire to do something positive for homeless people at Christmas.

However, if you have relevant skills and experience in one of our specialist areas (Services, Logistics or Activities) we really need your help, so please sign up in the appropriate section. 

Services that we are running for our guests include:

  • Healthcare
  • Dental
  • Podiatry
  • Physiotherapy
  • Opticians
  • Advice
  • Befriending
  • Natural healing
  • Massage
  • Dogs care
  • Catering
  • Salon
  • Sawing
  • Activities and Entertainment
  • Techincal/Transport

Relevant qualification and/or experience is necessary for those roles, and we will provide more details about both roles and what is required when signing up, closer to the volunteers recruitment start date (beginning of October). 

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Is there an age limit for volunteers?

General volunteers must be aged 16 or older by 21 December 2017. If you are 16 or 17 years old, you must be accompanied by a parent or guardian over the age of 25 and will not be able to volunteer for night shifts or any shifts at The Gate. If this applies to you please ask your parent/guardian to apply first and make a note of their Application Reference Number. You will then be able to apply and you will be asked to submit your parent or guardian’s reference number before you can continue your application. Please note that you will only be permitted to sign up to the same shifts and role as your parent/guardian and you. There is no upper age limit for volunteers.

Services, Activities and Logistics Volunteers must be aged 18 or older. For these roles there is no upper age limit, except for drivers who must be 65 years old or younger.

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Do you need any qualifications or experience to volunteer?

You do not need any qualifications or experience to be a general volunteer.

Some service volunteers and activities volunteers are required to have specialist skills, qualifications and appropriate insurance before they can apply and, if so, volunteers must provide proof of these.

Specific requirements are clearly stated under each service of the application process. Activities volunteers offering to run an activity will be asked to provide an outline of their planned activity on the online application form. We ask volunteers to plan flexible activities as attendance varies day to day and the setting is informal. We also ask volunteers to remember that activities should be accessible for all levels and nationalities. For volunteers interested in activities but who don’t feel confident leading a session, we still need your enthusiasm and skills! Sign up as a general volunteer. In your general volunteering shift briefings we encourage you to tell the Green Badge that you are an experienced activities volunteer and wish to support activities again.

Please note that Food Safety training is available through Crisis for those who want to volunteer in the kitchens and MiDAS training for some of those who want to drive our minibuses.

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How much time do I need to commit?

Generally, we ask volunteers to do a minimum of two shifts across the week on two different days*.

*Note for service and activities volunteers: although we encourage all volunteers to sign up for a minimum of two shifts, it may be possible to volunteer in some services for just one shift or two shifts on the same day, depending on shift times and volunteer numbers.

*Entertainment volunteers can sign up for one shift and do not have to volunteer for a whole shift. During the application process, you are asked to let us know the hours you would like to perform within.

For Logistics Volunteers, requirements differ depending on type. For Driving Volunteers and volunteers based at The Hub, two shifts are required. Operations Volunteers are required to do four shifts.

Is there a deadline for applications?

Generally, we open our Crisis at Christmas volunteer recruitment in October, as we announce this via our website and official social media channels.

We strongly suggest you apply early to ensure you receive your preferred shifts. Once we have assigned the appropriate number of volunteers to a shift, it will not be possible to select that shift in the application process.

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How do I select my volunteering shifts?

You can choose which shifts you would like during the application process. Please only choose shifts you can definitely attend. If a shift is full it will not be possible to select this on the application form.

When we receive your application online we will, in most cases, assign you immediately to the role and shifts that you have selected. We will confirm this by email within 10 working days. In some cases we may not be able to assign your role and shifts immediately, especially for service and activities volunteers, or we may need to reallocate you to an alternative shift, but we will keep you informed by email.

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Do some shifts need more help than others?

Usually, we struggle to find enough people to cover the period 27 to 30 December for all volunteer roles. Night shifts in the residential Rough Sleepers Centres are also particularly difficult to fill. We often need more volunteers for the Day Centre morning shift on 23 December. This is a vital shift in the Crisis at Christmas week, as volunteers help with the last-minute preparations before opening; making sure everything is in place and the centres are welcoming and comfortable for our guests.

We usually also have some trouble with finding people who can fill roles of Service Volunteers (e.g. Advice, Salon, Opticians, etc.). Think about the skills and experiences you have and you are able to offer to the project and our guests - have a look at specialist roles where you can utilize those skills most effectively and with greater benefit to the Crisis at Christmas and people we are trying to help.

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I was a guest at Crisis at Christmas; can I apply as a volunteer?

We welcome former guests as volunteers. Please note you may not be a guest and a volunteer in the same year. If you would like to discuss any issues surrounding this please contact us.

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Can I volunteer with my partner/friend/relative?

For General, Activities and Logistics* volunteers, this is possible, and we will endeavour to do all we can to have you volunteering together. However, due to some operational requirements, we can not guarantee that you will be allocated to the same activities during your shift as your partner/friend. 

If you are under 18 years old, your parent/guardian will need to apply first and you will be asked to submit their Application Reference Number when you submit your application.

*Please note that Logistics Volunteers may be assigned to a number of different tasks once they arrive at the hub. Whilst you can apply with a friend and travel to your shift together, we cannot guarantee you will be assigned the same tasks.

For Services Volunteers, this is only possible if both people are volunteering for the same service and fulfil applicable requirements, such as insurance and qualifications.

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Does Crisis provide insurance for volunteers?

Crisis volunteers are covered by our public liability insurance, which covers ‘legal liability to third parties as a result of bodily injury, property damage, obstruction, trespass or nuisance'.

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Are the centres accessible for those with support needs?

All our centres are wheelchair accessible and we will also endeavour to accommodate volunteers with other additional support needs. Please let us know in advance about any specific support needs you have so we can ensure that we have suitable resources in place to support your volunteering.

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Preparing for Crisis at Christmas

What should I do once my shifts are confirmed?

You will receive a unique login and password giving you access to Crisis Community, the online community for volunteers. Crisis Community contains features such as:

  • Information about your shifts, role and any events you are due to attend
  • Information on all Centres, including maps
  • Feedback forums where you can post comments or pose questions to other volunteers
  • A discussion board to help arrange transport (via car-sharing)
  • Blogs, news-updates and more information about Crisis and homelessness

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Do I need any training before Crisis at Christmas?

All new volunteers are invited to attend one of the New Volunteer Induction Sessions in December. During the application process you will be asked to select your preferred date for this. We strongly recommend that all new general volunteers attend one of these sessions.

All Services and Activities Volunteers are invited to attend a briefing session specific to their area, which will also include an overview of Crisis at Christmas. New and returning volunteers should attend this briefing to learn about changes to your service this year.  Please note that new Services and Activities volunteers do not need to attend the New Volunteer Induction Session for General volunteers, but we strongly recommend that you all attend one of the specific sessions.

Catering Service Volunteers require a Level 2 Food Safety Award to volunteer. If you do not have this qualification, you can attend a one-day food safety course which will be running on some weekend days in November and December at the Crisis offices. You will be able to select your preferred date for training as part of your application. 

All new Drivers will be required to attend one of the Transport briefings. You will be able to select your preferred date before you submit your application online. Drivers will have the option of indicating their interest in attending MiDAS training (Minibus Awareness Scheme) as part of the application process. This requires D1 category on your licence. There are are limited MiDAS spaces available and they will be assigned on a needs basisWhile MiDAS training is required for Drivers using minibuses (25% of our fleet), Drivers without MiDAS will still have plenty of work to do!

All new Hub Volunteers will be invitied to an optional Hub Induction and during the application process you will be asked to select your preferred date for this.

We have a number of specialist volunteer roles which are generally assigned to more experienced volunteers and usually available through the nomination process only. Those include Shift Office Coordinator, Quarter Master, Service Liaison volunteer, Guest Welfare Support Volunteer, Kitchen Coordinator, Communication Volunteer as well as Senior and Key Volunteers roles. We provide specialist all year round training session to those volunteers to ensure they are appropriately prepared to deliver their responsibilities during Christmas.

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Do you provide transport for volunteers?

Due to limited resources, you will need to make your own transport arrangements to and from your centre before and after your shifts. If you need to travel between centres during a shift, transport will be provided.

We recommend you use public transport as parking is often limited in and around the Centres. As there is no public transport on 25 December and a limited service on 26 December, we appreciate that driving may be the only option on those days. Please note that public transport commences too late for arrivals for the 26 December morning shift (9.00 am). Parking restrictions are normally lifted on 25 and 26 December, but please check this before you travel. As soon as we have parking information for specific centres we will post this on Crisis Community. 

Car pools and lift-share opportunities will be posted on Crisis Community. When you have been assigned your shifts, please log on to find out if there are any in your area.

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Do you provide Crisis at Christmas accommodation for volunteers?

Due to the high numbers of volunteers and cost involved we are unable to provide accommodation. We do try to negotiate discounted rates with hotels and hostels close to the centres. Information will be posted on Crisis Community as soon as rates become available. Please note that we are unlikely to negotiate discounts that will beat high street deals currently available.

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Will there be parking at the centres?

In most cases it will not be possible to park at the centres as space is often limited. We will provide as much information about parking options as possible when we have confirmed the location of each centre. You can also check online for parking options in the area around the centres.

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Will I have to pay the Congestion Charge?

The Congestion Charge is waived on weekends, public holidays and the days between Christmas and New Year, so it is not payable from 6 pm on 24 December to 7 am on 2 January.

The Congestion Charge is payable on 23 and 24 December. This applies in specific areas within central London from 7.00 am to 6.00 pm and you can find more information here.

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Can I claim back my travel expenses?

Unfortunately, the large number of volunteers involved in Crisis at Christmas means that we do not have the resources to reimburse travel costs.

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Can I change or cancel my shifts?

We urge you to apply only for shifts that you will definitely be able to attend, and to stick with the shifts that are assigned to you. If you are forced to change or cancel your shifts, please log into Crisis Community to do so. The more advance warning we have, the better chance we have of managing the shifts and providing the best service for our guests. Please note that you will not be able to change your shift to one that is already full.

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What do I do if I am feeling poorly or ill?

If you’re ill, please don't come in for your shift. This is as you may not only pose a risk to other volunteers but most importantly our guests often have compromised immune systems and something that you might shake off easily could cause them major problems.

 However, please do go into the Community pages and update your shift details or ring the Crisis at Christmas call centre to let your Shift Leader know.

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During volunteering

What happens when I arrive for my first shift?

You will be checked in at the entry point for volunteers. It’s really important that you are signed in properly as we rely on this information to know which volunteers have attended their assigned shifts and monitor our non-attendance rates. If you arrive late for a shift please make yourself known at the shift office in order to be signed in.

Once you have been signed in, you will be given a badge that will identify your role. Volunteers who speak a language other than English fluently will be given a sticker with the appropriate flag to display on their badge. 

  • General volunteers, Service volunteers, Logistics volunteers and Activities volunteers should go straight to the designated volunteer area for a briefing from relevant senior volunteers. You will be assigned to a task after the briefing.
  • Entertainments volunteers should go to the main entertainments area in the centre where the entertainment organiser will help you to set up.
  • Logistics volunteers should sign in at the warehouse reception desk where you will be told which part of the Hub you need to go to. You will receive a full briefing before your shift starts.

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Can volunteers use the services at Crisis at Christmas?

Services are strictly open to guests only, with the following exceptions. Volunteers can use the service provided by the Samaritans and they can attend the Alcoholics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

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Do you provide food for volunteers?

All the food at our centres is donated and it is our policy that guests always come first. We will endeavour to provide our volunteers with a meal, however this may not always be possible when running Crisis at Christmas operations. We will therefore recommend that you eat a meal before coming to the centres to start your shifts or bring a suitable light snack, especially if you have any special dietary requirements (please note those will only be allowed to be consumed in the volunteering area). We are also not able to guarantee access to a fridge, microwave and other means of cooking so please make sure you take this into consideration when bringing a readymade meal with you.

However, you will also find plenty of hot beverages to keep you warm and cosy in the volunteer area! 

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