By doing this you will make a big difference to ensuring everyone gets the help they need. It doesn’t need to take up a lot of time, but here are some suggestions on how to be a street organiser.
Setting up the group
- If there is already a WhatsApp group in your street, the best thing would be to use this. It saves you having to set something up, and means that some people are already in touch with each other.
- If there isn’t a group, or you don’t know about one, set up a local WhatsApp group and give it the name of your street. If it’s a small street, you might want to include other streets, but it’s best to keep the area small.
- If you can find someone else or a small group who can share the job with you, then do so – this means there are more people doing the work and will be useful if anyone gets ill or cannot help for any reason.
- You need to make sure everyone in the street knows about the group. The easiest way to do this is to create a leaflet and put it through everyone’s door – you can ask other people to help with this if they feel OK to do this. Make sure you do this safely (wash your hands before and after you do it, and don’t touch your face while you are putting them through the doors).
- The leaflet should give your contact details, so people can join the group and/or ask for help. It should also say what help you can offer. You need to make sure people who are not on WhatsApp can contact you by mobile or phone. There is a template leaflet below that you can edit.
- When new people contact you, send them a link to join the group. When they join, it’s nice to say hello and ask their name and house number – then other people in the group can also say hello and where they are.
Dealing with requests
- You might want to compile a list of names, contact details and key skills, but make sure that you follow data protection guidance:
- be clear about why you want the information and what you will do with it
- make sure people agree to the information being stored and shared
- keep the information securely (in a password protected document if possible) that can only be accessed by people who really need to
- delete all information when this crisis is over and the information isn’t needed anymore.
- Let people in the group know that they can either put a message in the group to ask for help, or they can contact you directly as street organiser. Some people might be happy to share with the whole group, and then someone in the group can respond. However, some people might prefer not to do this, especially if they feel uncomfortable about asking for help or don’t want others to know.
- When someone contacts you to ask for help, put a message on the street WhatsApp group to say the type of help required, but don’t say who it is – we need to keep things as confidential as possible. Or you can use your list of skills to try and match someone to the request.
- Once someone has offered to help, contact them privately to explain who it is and what help is needed. Don’t do this in the street WhatsApp group.
- Ask the helper to contact the person privately to arrange to help – ask them to do this outside the street WhatsApp group.
- Ask the helper to let you know when they have done the job or to let you know if there are any problems.
- It’s important to only deal with requests that don’t need people to go into anyone’s home, or need special skills such as nursing or medical help.
- Don’t pass any information on about someone without their permission.
- Be careful what information you store about requests – this is very sensitive personal information, and it might be best not to keep it at all once a request has been dealt with. If you do, make sure it is kept securely where nobody else can access it.
It is important that helpers look after themselves at all times. There is lots of guidance available about this online. Here are few key points to tell people who are helping:
- Volunteers should not take on any jobs if they have any symptoms or live in a house with someone who has symptoms of coronavirus.
- Shopping – If people are doing shopping, they should get a list of the items the person wants by message or email to avoid any mistakes. Make sure the person says if they are happy to accept any alternatives, and if they have any allergies.
People should wash their hands before shopping and before they handle any of the items. They should not take the shopping into their own house. When delivering the shopping, they should ideally contact the person by phone rather than knock on the door, and then leave the bag outside. They can wait to check the person collects it, but should keep a safe distance (2 metres). Or they can leave and ask the person to confirm by text/phone. Once they get home, they should wash their hands. They should try not to touch their face at any time while they are doing the shopping.
- Money – It is best if volunteers can buy the shopping and then take it to the person for them to pay back. If possible, get them to ask for payment electronically. Never take bank cards or credit cards from anyone. Tell volunteers to agree with the person how they are going to deal with payment before they do the job.
- Advice – Unless they are a health professional, volunteers should never give any medical or health advice – they can direct people to the relevant official advice or tell people what it says e.g. email a link to the NHS website.
Thanks again for helping your community in this way. If you want more detailed information on different aspects of street organising. There is more information on the national COVID Mutual Aid website.