Part Two: Knowing the Correct Role for Staff and Volunteers

The following is part two of a short series written by Seacoast Family Promise’s on-staff Case Manager, Melissa Cardin. This series comprises Melissa’s reflections after attending the 2010 Family Promise ‘Dare to Dream’ Conference in Florida. Her workshops included trauma among guests, knowing the correct role for staff and volunteers, self-care for staff and time to restore balance, setting boundaries and knowing limits, and the importance of being an advocate for our guests. Melissa and several other representatives from Seacoast Family Promise attended the event and returned to New Hampshire inspired with fresh ideas, and an even stronger passion for the families we serve at Seacoast Family Promise.

“The Mission of Seacoast Family Promise is to empower families experiencing homelessness to achieve lasting self-sufficiency.”

PART 2: Our Role.

It isn’t our job as staff or volunteers to provide counseling for [our guests], but it is our job to make sure they get the help that they need. With that said, we can make accommodations for these people to help them regain control of their lives again, such as having well lit halls and bathrooms in our faith communities, making sure guests have privacy when changing their clothes or bathing. Even things like the temperature or the number of people at a church can affect how comfortable someone feels. Did you know that people who have experienced multiple traumatic events actually are cooler in temperature than those who have not? Though faith communities may be trying to save money on their heating bills, this may cause great discomfort to our guests, and we need to be aware of this. I believe that it is essential to make sure that the board, staff and volunteers receive proper training on how to work effectively with guests who are suffering from traumatic stress.

At Seacoast Family Promise, our vision is a community in which every family has a home, a livelihood, and a chance to build a better future together.

The biggest thing that we, as the staff, board and volunteers need to remember for our guests is that we can’t get secure in who we think our guests are, but to look at who they really are. Not every guest that comes through our doors is “just like us, but homeless.” If the volunteers begin talking to our guests, and information begins to come out about a traumatic event that happened in that guest’s life, it isn’t the volunteer’s responsibility to counsel them through it. It is their responsibility to notify the staff, so that the appropriate referrals can be made.

In part three of this series Melissa explores the issue of balancing boundaries.

*If you believe someone is in crisis, is an immediate threat to themselves or someone else, or is in imminent danger, please call 9-1-1, or visit the local emergency room. If you would like to learn more about the services offered by Seacoast Family Promise, we can be contacted at 603-658-8447.

For other information on SFP including ways to volunteer or donate, please visit our website at:


About seacoastfamilypromise

The mission of SFP is to empower families experiencing homelessness to achieve lasting self-sufficiency.
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