Jenny Hopkins, an associate director in Corporate Finance at Grant Thornton in Leeds, explains her involvement in a Yorkshire outreach charity for the homeless.
I’ve been a trustee and treasurer of Simon on the Streets for almost 18 months now. I first got involved when a colleague, who was the former treasurer, was looking for a replacement as he was emigrating to Canada. Sport has been a big part of my life, particularly playing hockey, and I felt it was time to give something back.
Also, having spent most of my adult life in Yorkshire after attending Leeds Metropolitan University, I was keen to do something which would have an impact on the local community.
I didn’t know much about the social issues connected with being homeless before I started working with the charity. Basically, Simon on the Streets offers support to people who are often those excluded from, or who refuse, the intervention of other services.
This group of people are often identified by services as those who will not achieve progress and they are, therefore, left unsupported. The aim of the charity is to motivate people to make a positive change to their lives. There are a lot of people living on the streets who now find the responsibility of running a household overwhelming and the role of the charity is to support them and help them get back on their feet.
The team of trained support workers take to the streets in Leeds, Huddersfield and Bradford providing front-line emotional and practical support to those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Often, they are dealing with people with behavioural and mental issues or those who are struggling with an addiction.
The aim is to be there for these people and help them to access the services they need to make positive changes to their lives. This may include anything from accompanying them to appointments with social workers or providing practical help in finding accommodation.
The charity is a relatively small organisation and I felt that I could make a valuable contribution, using my experience from work and my professional contacts.
I spend a day or two a month helping with budgeting, staff issues, fundraising and attending board meetings. There are plans to grow the organisation and increase the number of support workers in all three cities, so I’m also involved in the strategy for expansion.
Working with Simon on the Streets has given me a greater perspective on life. Before I got involved, I was pretty ignorant about what life was like for many people who don’t have opportunities and need a hand.
It’s quite a contrast to my day-to-day corporate job, but one which I feel is extremely worthwhile. I would encourage more people to look for ways they can get involved with the community.