Volunteer Guide

The Homeless Coalition of Fort Atkinson


1. Ethics

All staff, interns, and regular volunteers (henceforth referred to as “staff”) must agree to abide by the NASW Code of Ethics.A copy of the Code of Ethics is available in the office or at www.nasw.org

The mission of the social work profession is rooted in the core values of:
service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence.These values are strongly embraced by all members of the Bethel House organization.

2. Confidentiality

Personal client information is strictly confidential. Client information is only available to staff or board members who have signed a confidentiality agreement.

Client information may not be shared with others outside of the organization unless a release of information is signed by the client. In the event information must be shared, care should be taken to only share necessary details. Information may be shared between staff and board members.

Client confidentiality has limits. If clients express that they are planning on harming themselves or another person, we have an obligation to report it to the authorities.

Access to client files, records, or logs is only permitted for the purposes of service or non-identifying data collection, unless permission is given by the Director or Board President.

In the event client records are subpoenaed, only the information that is absolutely necessary should be provided. Talk to the Director to discuss subpoena procedures.

If a staff member sees a client in public, they should take care to protect the confidentiality of that client. It is preferred to let a client initiate public greetings.

3. Boundaries and Social media

In the interest of protecting the client relationship, staff may not seek or accept “friend” requests from clients on social media.

Staff may not share information about clients on social media unless permission is given from the Board or Director to share non-identifying information.

Staff may not pursue a personal friendship outside of the professional context for one year after a client has stopped receiving services at the HC of FA.

If a staff member has a previously established friendship with a new client, the staff member should alert their supervisor and allow another staff member to work with that client.

4. Dress Code

Staff should dress in business-casual-to-casual attire. Jeans are allowed if they are not ripped. Attire should be neat, clean, and professional. No athletic attire or excessively revealing clothing in the office. No flip-flops. Tattoos are permitted to show as long as there are no offensive words or symbols that may alienate clients.

When attending court with a client, business casual to business professional is required. Other events may require varying levels of dress.Athletic attire or “painting clothes” may be worn during volunteer work days or when cleaning or painting the homes.

5. Professionalism and safety

All staff are required to have a background check on file.

Staff are expected to act in a professional manner when representing HC of FA.Drugs, alcohol, and firearms are not allowed in the HC of FA offices or homes.

It is preferred to have at least two people, HC of FA or church staff, in the offices/churches at all times. If a staff member must meet with a client alone, the staff member should inform someone of their whereabouts. Staff should keep the doors locked when in the building alone.

Staff should remain calm and utilize conflict resolution and de-escalation skills when working with difficult clients or during staff disagreements. Yelling, swearing, and fighting are not considered professional behavior.

If a client or other individual becomes violent, or threatens a staff member with violence, staff should call 9-1-1 and notify staff in the building.Staff should follow the guidelines from the police. A written safety plan will be written once the shelter is established as a help to identify issues, what if’s and problems.

6. Supervision and Board of Directors

Staff members are supervised directly by the Director. The Director must report to the Board of Directors. The Director may consult with the Executive Board (President, Vice-president, Treasurer, Secretary) if the entire board is not available. Staff and the Director must abide by the bylaws of the organization.

Interns who require weekly supervision will be given a set time to meet, dependent on availability of schedules.

7. Phone Line and Recording Client Info

Staff should answer the office phone promptly. The office greeting when answering the phone is, “Homeless Coalition of Fort Atkinson, this is ________, how can I help you?”

When with a client, the office phone may be put on silent. Check voicemails every morning and during the day if a call is missed. The contact log is in the Google Sheets document.

1. Listen to each message. Enter as much information as possible into the Contact Log. You may need to listen to the message a few times. Indicate the appropriate individual to contact the caller back and highlight in yellow.

  • Calls about furniture donations, furniture needs, donations of toiletries or other tangibles, and small fundraisers (Girl Scout troops, 4H Club, etc.) should be directed to the Donations Coordinator.
  • Calls about transitional housing, current housed clients, major fundraisers, serious maintenance concerns, other administrative issues, or unusual situations should be directed to the Director.
  • Calls about emergency assistance should be handled by the interns or volunteer staff who receive the call.

2. When returning a call, say “Hello, this is ______, an intern/volunteer at the Homeless Coalition of Fort Atkinson, returning your call. How can I help you?” Then listen empathetically to the client’s needs and situation. Understand that the client may be upset or frantic due to their crisis situation. Even if we can’t offer any tangible help, just offering a caring and nonjudgmental ear is still serving them. Try to help the client problem-solve. Ask about other resources or sources of support.

3. If the client meets the basic eligibility requirements, schedule a meeting with them as soon as you and the client are available. The client will need to bring the bill for the item they are requesting assistance for (such as a WE Energies bill or lease). Do not promise any assistance until it’s approved.

4. If the client does not meet eligibility requirements, offer other resources. Continue to help problem-solve.

5. Indicate in the Contact Log when you called them and the result of that call. If clients don’t answer, leave a message if possible and write LM (left message) with the time in the log. Try to call clients at least twice.

6. Write any important notes in the log. These are meant to be BRIEF notes with just the necessary information. If more notes are needed, use a case notes form.

8. Eligibility Requirements of programs

The eligibility requirements of the Transitional Housing and Emergency Assistance programs are as follows: (see specific sheets pertaining to Transitional and Emergency Assistance).

In general:

  • Families must have children under 18 in their care.

  • Families must have a connection to Fort Atkinson or the School District of Fort Atkinson.

  • Families are at risk of homelessness or in a severe financial crisis.

  • Special circumstances should be discussed with the Director or the Board.

The public is welcome to attend classes and workshops.

9. Providing Resources to clients

Check the Resource Guide for other resources for clients. The office also has many fliers for local and government programs.

2-1-1 is always a good resource if you are not sure. You can call 2-1-1 yourself to ask about resources and you can direct clients there.

10. Client Meetings

When meeting with clients, greet them and allow them to choose where to sit. Offer a water bottle. Spend the first few moments developing rapport. Then ask them about their situation and what they are looking for help for.

The client can choose whether they fill out the application or whether the staff helps fill it out. Make sure they sign the application and the release of confidentiality. Use a case notes form to take notes.

Assist the client as best as you can regarding their situation. Do not promise assistance unless approved.

Help gather any relevant resource brochures and allow them to browse the resources. Offer the client toiletries from our storage room.When possible, allow the client to choose their own products.

11. Trauma informed care (TIC)

All staff should be trauma informed. If you haven’t taken a class or training on TIC, please complete the following within the first 2 weeks:

https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/tic/webcasts.htm (3 modules)


https://gucchdtacenter.georgetown.edu/TraumaInformedCare/ (8 modules)

Download the Application