Title

Maximizing Volunteerism in Youth Shelters: Improving Orientation and Communication Strategies

Document Type

Presentation

Publication Date

7-14-2010

Comments

Advisor: Rickie Brawer, PhD, MPH-Thomas Jefferson University.

Abstract

Youth Emergency Service (YES), the largest shelter for homeless and runway youth in the Philadelphia area, offers many support services, including on-site medical treatment, counseling, educational enrichment and recreational opportunities. Each year more than 400 youth ages 12-17 are served by YES. Homeless youth are at greater risk for a variety of health problems including acute and chronic disease, mental health issues and trauma resulting from violence and abuse and are less likely to have access to, receive or have a positive outcome from health services compared to youth who have a home. YES depends on volunteerism for many of its services, such as the health services provided by the Department of Family and Community Services and Jefferson medical students. An assessment of the organizational needs of YES underscored the need for a systematic approach to orient volunteers at YES. The PREECED/PROCEDE model was used to structure data collection from health service volunteers and coordinators at the YES shelter. The resulting data showed current volunteers felt informed and supported by staff but their orientation was not uniform or comprehensive. Respondents agreed that a web-based resource tool would be valuable for orienting volunteers on pertinent topics including: understanding the volunteers’ roles more completely, information regarding the unique characteristics of the client population, Philadelphia specific population information and staff information. A survey of volunteer coordinators and volunteer manuals from other similar organizations showed that background checks (20/20), organization and population overview(20/20), confidentiality (16/20), role of volunteer (15/20), respect (9/20), and commitment (9/20) were the main components for volunteer orientation. Based on findings, a web-based volunteer orientation and evaluation tool have been developed.