The training that our Overnight Welcome Centre (OWC) staff team undertakes is intense. Training our staff is essential and we have experts from various fields provide this training. Our main goal at the OWC is to stop people rough sleeping but the training allows us to do so much more. It equips our team to come alongside our guests, build trust, journey through the system with them, possibly rescue them from horrific situations and can actually save a life.

As I start this article, I am sitting listening to Stephen Wishart (Shelter Scotland) training the team on Basic Homeless Rights Awareness.  This winter, we are going to encounter people at their moment of crisis with nowhere to turn except our service. By training the staff in Homeless Rights, they will understand people’s rights and the process of making a homeless application. We were told about the barriers people may face and how we can make a difference. We heard about the challenge of gatekeeping by local authorities and what unsuitable accommodation means. Stephen has been involved with the Winter Project for eight years and he comes with a wealth of experience. He understands the challenges our guests are going to face and, thankfully, the team at Shelter Scotland are also only a phone call away if our team needs extra support throughout the season.

Our next training is on Naloxone and is run by Liz Donaghy, who is the Drug Death Prevention Lead for the Alcohol and Drug Recovery Services in Glasgow. Incredibly we only had to use Naloxone once last year. However, we will not become complacent. We are trained in spotting the signs of an overdose and know how to use Naloxone in these situations. Naloxone saves lives and we want to make sure all our guests are kept safe whilst in our care.

We finished our first day of training with Joy Andrew from Restore Glasgow sharing how to spot the signs of human trafficking. Over the past few years in the OWC we have seen an increase in cases where trafficking may have happened. We support guests in the best way possible and provide a safe place for them. Trafficking is still happening in our nation and Restore Glasgow has equipped the team to spot the signs, which may help rescue someone this year.

At Glasgow City Mission, we take safeguarding extremely seriously. Our goal is ensure we never take advantage of our guests. Marion Carson, our chaplain, is passionate about our team working with our guests in the safest way, protecting our guests. We have safeguarding procedures in place to help us do this well, which Marion highlighted to the team.

Guests can often be unpredictable when they arrive at the OWC. They are often stressed, or can appear agitated, having found themselves experiencing homelessness. This is very understandable as this is traumatic. However, it is our responsibility to make sure the OWC staff are equipped to deal with chaotic situations safely. Michael Greville of Salvas has trained the OWC staff for over 10 years in how to manage conflict and apply de-escalation techniques. We learn at training how to approach people and have been taught how to de-escalate challenging moments. Michael has a passion for making sure the staff feel confident in their role. He takes us through the extreme scenarios we could face, like a Park Inn Hotel incident, and tells us what to do. We have an emergency response kit on site in case of a major incident. This allows our team to respond quickly in a crisis and communicate well with emergency services.

Next is our First Aid training. Each year we have adapted the First Aid training based on emergencies we are most likely going to encounter based on over a decade of experience. We are fully trained in using a Bleed Control Kit for open wounds such as a stabbing, dealing with an unresponsive person and how to approach them safely. We are also trained in CPR including using a deliberator, which we have on site, heart attacks and applying dressings. This training will save lives because the team are equipped in initially handling these medical emergencies, allowing time for paramedics to reach our site.

Each year we finish our training with communion. It reminds us of why we do what we do. Jesus died and rose again for everyone – this includes our guests. We believe that God is in the midst of our service. He gives us the strength we need throughout the OWC season and inspires us to have hope for our guests.

Thank you to all our trainers. We literally could not provide the service we do without you.