volunteer

Join our Good Neighbor Network today!

Our volunteers are a diverse group with different backgrounds and skill sets who share a common goal: to help reduce homelessness and promote housing justice through education, advocacy, and compassion in action. Do you want to donate your time and talents to help resolve homelessness in Santa Cruz County?

Artist Ally

The Artist Ally is a volunteer at Housing Matters who fosters equitable access to the local creative community for our program participants. The Artist Ally has a background in creative arts and is enthusiastic about helping our program participants, in a group setting, to achieve one or more of the following:

  1. Long-term community integration, such as membership in a local artistic community 
  2. Professional development, like grant writing or exhibition planning
  3. Ongoing mutual support through creative self-expression projects, which may include:
    • Storytelling/creative writing  
    • Visual art
    • Music 
    • Dance

The volunteer experience

Artist Allies work with the Volunteer Program Manager to bring ongoing opportunities for creative self-expression to the Housing Matters community, keeping in mind the three main goals listed above. 

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Volunteer qualifications

  • Mental health or social services experience a plus; understands how to maintain healthy boundaries in a social services setting
  • Friendly and patient
  • Understands the basics of Trauma-Informed Care; previous knowledge and experience a plus, but not required
  • Communicates comfortably with people of all ages and backgrounds
  • Understands the importance of confidentiality

Book Buddies

Rebele Family Shelter (RFS) provides emergency shelter for up to 28 households with children (approximately 90 individuals) on any given night. Families reside in the shelter for an average of six months while working toward obtaining permanent housing.

The volunteer experience

Book Buddies volunteer in the RFS to inspire a love of reading in some of our youngest shelter residents. Volunteers read on the first and third Mondays of every month, from 3:30 – 4:30 pm.

Young readers at RFS range in age from elementary school through middle school. There are at least three volunteers working together during each Book Buddies reading group, and parents are never out of sight. So it’s a supportive environment for RFS families as well as for volunteers. Book Buddies meet in the RFS Dining Room and on the RFS playground.

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Volunteer qualifications

  • Patient and kind
  • Loves to read
  • Communicates comfortably with people of all ages and backgrounds
  • Childcare experience is a plus, though not essential
  • Maintains respect for privacy and confidentiality at all times
  • Sensitive to the impact of trauma on children and families; is interested to learn more about trauma-informed care
  • Motivated to maintain healthy boundaries; is interested to learn more about how to set healthy boundaries in a social-service setting

Campus Companion

Housing Matters welcomes about 150 shelter guests on any given night at our Coral Street campus. We operate three unique shelter programs: the Recuperative Care Center, Rebele Family Shelter, and The Loft. We also welcome about 80 people onto our campus daily to access Day Services like our mail room, showers, and bathrooms.

The volunteer experience

Campus Companions greet guests in public spaces on the Housing Matters campus and offer friendly conversation to enhance our guests’ sense of purpose and belonging. Campus Companions may also offer way finding to guests in the form of schedules of services available on and off campus.

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Volunteer qualifications

  • Friendly and patient
  • Loves to listen
  • Understands how to maintain healthy boundaries in a social services setting; mental health or social services experience a plus
  • Communicates comfortably with people of all ages and backgrounds
  • Interested in learning about the array of resources and supportive services available  throughout Santa Cruz County for people experiencing homelessness

Front Desk Assistant

Our Front Desk is the first stop for visitors to our administrative offices and is located on the ground floor of the Rebele Family Shelter. Our Front Desk also serves as an information hub for community members calling Housing Matters in search of shelter options and other essential services. It’s open Monday through Friday, 8:30 am – 4:30 pm.

The volunteer experience

Front Desk volunteers greet visitors with a kind word and a smile and answer calls from community members. Callers are often seeking information about shelter program eligibility and other essential services offered by Housing Matters and partner organizations. This position is supervised by our Guest Experience Coordinator.

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Volunteer qualifications

  • Friendly and patient, in person and on the phone
  • Customer-service experience is a plus
  • Respects the privacy of others and maintains confidentiality at all times
  • Interested in learning about shelter and supportive-services providers throughout Santa Cruz County
  • Maintains patience and kindness while receiving calls from community members who may feel stressed as they navigate the crisis of homelessness
  • Comfortable with downtime when the phones are quiet; feel free to bring a book

Gratitude Group

Each year about 1,000 compassionate community members give financial support to help sustain Housing Matters programs and services. When our donors receive a personal thank you call, they are significantly more likely to give a second gift and to make it larger than the first. With help from volunteers, our Development Team and Board of Directors work together to make thank you calls throughout the year to let donors know the significance of their impact.

The volunteer experience

Gratitude Group volunteers gather via Zoom with Development staff for thank you call parties. Development staff get this party started by setting motivation and discussing strategy with volunteers. Next, volunteers turn off their cameras and hit the phones for about 40 minutes. Finally, the whole group returns to the Zoom meeting to debrief and celebrate the meaningful connections they have made with Housing Matters donors over the phone.

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Volunteer qualifications

  • Friendly and patient; customer service experience a plus
  • Communicates comfortably with people of all ages and backgrounds
  • Must have a working phone
  • Understands the importance of confidentiality

Kitchen Assistant

Housing Matters welcomes about 200 shelter program participants on any given night at our Coral Street campus. We operate three unique shelter programs: the Recuperative Care Center, Rebele Family Shelter, and The Loft. Our guests enjoy meals in the Dining Hall or on The Patio, an open-air dining space. Our full-scale kitchen offers a nutritious breakfast, lunch, and dinner, every day of the week, to all of our shelter guests.

The volunteer experience

The Kitchen Assistant greets shelter guests at dinnertime and serves meals in a cafeteria-style line. After dinner is served, volunteers help kitchen staff to clean the kitchen and wash the dishes.

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Volunteer qualifications

  • Maintains patience and kindness while serving guests who may feel stressed as they navigate the crisis of homelessness
  • Customer-service experience a plus
  • Maintains standard hygiene and safety protocols while working with food; food-service experience a plus
  • Communicates comfortably with people of all ages and backgrounds
  • Understands how to maintain healthy boundaries in a social services setting
  • Must pass criminal background check

Mail Room Assistant

Without a physical address, receiving important mail can be challenging. More than 1,300 individuals experiencing homelessness use the Housing Matters mail room to receive important mail such as letters confirming Social Security payments, housing vouchers, and other government benefits, which are often an important part of someone’s pathway back to permanent housing.

We provide mail accounts as well as stationary, envelopes, and pens to those experiencing homelessness at no cost. Our mail room is open to the public from 10am–2pm, Monday through Friday; 6am–8am on Tuesdays; and 4pm–6pm on Thursdays.

The volunteer experience

Mail room volunteers help sort the mail and manage our community message board and program information board. Mail room volunteers work under the direction of the Mail Services Coordinator.

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Volunteer qualifications

  • Friendly and patient
  • Enjoys detail-oriented work
  • Respects others’ privacy and maintains confidentiality at all times

Neighbors for Neighbors Greeter

Housing Matters is proud to offer community education opportunities for the general public on solutions to homelessness, free of charge, every month of the year.

Neighbors for Neighbors is an educational program hosted in partnership with Santa Cruz Public Libraries. Our monthly in-person library meetups feature expert speakers on topics pertinent to homelessness and housing justice. Past topics have included: Shelter programs in Santa Cruz County; What’s working in other places; and Safe parking programs.

The volunteer experience

The Neighbors for Neighbors Greeter manages the welcome table where attendees sign in before joining our meet up. The Greeter is often the first point of contact for attendees. They offer a welcoming smile, collect accurate attendance information, and do their best to answer questions that may arise.

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Volunteer qualifications

  • Maintains patience and kindness while managing the check-in process
  • Communicates comfortably with people of all ages and backgrounds
  • Must be able to work independently with minimal supervision
  • Communicates comfortably with people of all ages and backgrounds
  • Available the 4th Tuesday of each month from 4:45 pm to 7:00 pm

Neighbors for Neighbors Video Editor

Housing Matters is proud to offer community-education opportunities for the general public on solutions to homelessness, free of charge, every month of the year.

Neighbors for Neighbors is an educational program hosted in partnership with Santa Cruz Public Libraries. These monthly in-person library meetups feature expert speakers on topics pertinent to homelessness and housing justice. Past topics have included: Shelter programs in Santa Cruz County; What’s working in other places; and Safe parking programs. 

Housing Matters receives ongoing requests for remote access to library meetup content. Our goal is to offer a publicly accessible online archive of Neighbors for Neighbors meetup content, sharing the expert knowledge shared by guest speakers. 

The volunteer experience

The volunteer video editor works in partnership with Housing Matters Community Engagement staff to create a uniform collection of educational videos, using raw footage our staff has collected from the Neighbors for Neighbors program.

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Volunteer qualifications

  • Experienced video editor
  • Available monthly, ongoing
  • Works well collaboratively 
  • Must be able to work independently with minimal supervision

Special Events Volunteer

Housing Matters invites our community at large to come together for special events with opportunities to help resolve homelessness in Santa Cruz County. Our special events provide education around the issue of homelessness and opportunities for community engagement and fundraising.

The volunteer experience

Volunteers help make special events run smoothly through their event-day roles and responsibilities. Examples of event-day roles include:

  • Friendly and patient
  • Communicates comfortably with people of all ages and backgrounds
  • Flexible and willing to lend a helping hand when needed
  • Specific qualifications vary depending on day-of assignment

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Volunteer qualifications

  • Maintains patience and kindness while serving guests who may feel stressed as they they navigate the crisis of homelessness
  • Customer service experience a plus
  • Communicates comfortably with people of all ages and backgrounds
  • Understands how to maintain healthy boundaries in a social services setting
  • Enjoys tidying and organizing
  • Must be able to work independently with minimal supervision

Volunteer Coordinator

The Good Neighbor Network is a diverse group of community members engaging in volunteer projects around a shared mission: to reduce homelessness and promote housing justice in Santa Cruz County through education, advocacy, and compassion in action.

The volunteer experience

The Volunteer Program Coordinator works primarily with new applicants to the Good Neighbor Network, offering program support in the following areas:

  • Answering questions about Housing Matters, the Good Neighbor Network, and current volunteer opportunities
  • Calling references listed on applications
  • Volunteer orientation scheduling

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Volunteer qualifications

  • Organized
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills
  • Interested in learning more about Housing Matters and our many volunteer opportunities
  • Experienced user of Gmail, Google Calendar, and Zoom
  • Communicates comfortably with people of all ages and backgrounds
  • Must be able to work independently with minimal supervision
  • Available 1-2 hours weekly 

Welcome Home Delivery Driver

The Good Neighbor Network is partnering with Wings Homeless Advocacy to help expand its Welcome Home Program. Wings is a local nonprofit whose Welcome Home Program has offered furniture and baskets full of household essentials to newly housed individuals and families, since 2010. This program helps our newly housed neighbors to achieve stability during this critical transition period when their experience of homelessness has just ended. 

Good Neighbor Network Volunteers are helping Wings to expand the Welcome Home Program by delivering additional move-in baskets to newly housed neighbors every month. 

The volunteer experience

After attending Housing Matters’ Volunteer Orientation, Welcome Home Delivery Drivers are connected with Wings to schedule their Welcome Home Program training. After training with Wings is complete, the Delivery Driver’s name and contact information is shared with the Wings Dispatcher. The Dispatcher receives requests for Welcome Home Kits from case managers throughout Santa Cruz County and sends these delivery opportunities out to all Delivery Drivers. Volunteers claim the deliveries that work with their personal schedules. Once delivery details are set, volunteers drive to Wings’ storage shed, load the items for each order, and deliver baskets with household essentials to newly housed neighbors.

Delivery Driver volunteers aren’t just delivering essential supplies; they are a warm smile, a vote of confidence, and a pair of helping hands offering a sense of dignity and increased stability to our newly housed neighbors during this critical phase of change in their lives.

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Volunteer qualifications

  • Reliable vehicle and valid driver’s license
  • Able to lift up to 25 lbs.
  • Friendly and patient
  • Understands healthy boundaries 
  • Communicates comfortably with people of all ages and backgrounds
  • Willing to complete a criminal background check

Welcome Home Donations Collector

The Good Neighbor Network is partnering with Wings Homeless Advocacy to help expand its Welcome Home Program. Wings is a local nonprofit whose Welcome Home Program has offered furniture and baskets full of household essentials to newly housed individuals and families, since 2010. This program helps our newly housed neighbors to achieve stability during this critical transition period when their experience of homelessness has just ended. 

Good Neighbor Network Volunteers are helping Wings to expand the Welcome Home Program by delivering additional move-in baskets to newly housed neighbors every month. 

The volunteer experience

Volunteers work within their networks to collect brand-new household essentials to be included in Welcome Home Baskets. Donations Collectors typically choose one area from our inventory list to focus their efforts, such as cleaning supplies, kitchen essentials, or linens. They are then provided a list of specific items to collect. 

Donations Collectors work with the Volunteer Program Manager to develop a collection plan. Help with problem-solving is available every step of the way. Some volunteers choose to leave collection bins in key locations, like churches and classrooms, with signage supplied by Housing Matters. Other volunteers choose to travel door-to-door inviting neighbors to make a commitment to support their donation goals over the coming weeks. Once donations are collected, volunteers bring their Welcome Home supplies to Housing Matters. 

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Volunteer qualifications

  • Self-starter
  • Works well without direct supervision