As we write to you about the Winter Shelter on this beautiful spring day, those cold long nights feel like a lifetime ago.
It was a busy winter, which surprised us as the new HOP (Homeless Outreach Programme) team had done a fantastic job of getting rough sleepers off the streets and housed.
We had booked in 19 weeks of the Winter Shelter, our longest ever, but as lockdown approached we ended a couple of weeks early, meaning we matched last year’s shelter in length. Luckily the last remaining guests all had offers of a place to stay so no one returned to the streets that didn’t want to.
This year we supported more guests than last, with fewer staying as long (although there were one or two exceptions). This probably reflects both the work of the HOP team, and our own work in finding longer term accommodation for people. We did however see a distinct increase in ‘no-shows’ – whilst we had guests booked in to fill over 95% of our beds, we actually ran at 72% capacity because referred guests didn’t show up.
Towards the end of the shelter we secured funding from Homeless Link to provide longer-term support to our guests, setting up a mini hub to train and support our guests into (or back into) work. This was working very well, and as well as securing employment for guests with other local employers, we are happy to have taken on one of our guests to join our team.
The winter wasn’t without its challenges, as we saw a marked increase in poor behaviour from a small minority of guests, but the Winter Shelter community did a wonderful job of loving and supporting them, despite Paul and Juli, our Welfare Support and Winter Shelter team, having to double as bouncers on a few occasions.
Since the end of the Winter Shelter (and the start of lockdown), we have been supporting the HOP team and the Immanuel Project in supplying food to the people who have been housed by the council in bed and breakfast accommodation, as well as those who are deemed to be vulnerably housed. Over 500 meals a week have been delivered to Immanuel who have opened an extra day a week to support the lockdown measures, and our Cooking Hub team, Julie and Soraya, have been making meals for the HOP team to deliver to guests on the other days.
We are already making plans for next winter when once again the landscape will change, and we will be in touch with our host church teams shortly.
This year our Winter Shelter opened for 119 nights, with 999 bed nights occupied by 59 guests. Volunteers put in 7,356 hours, equivalent to £60,393 at the living wage.
Our guests were primarily from the UK (nearly half), with just over a quarter from the EU. Over 90% were male. One third were aged 25-34, around a quarter 35-44. Less than half were on benefits, with nearly a third having no recourse to public funds. Thirty-four guests had extra support needs, such as mental or physical health problems or substance misuse.
Over half of our guests were living longer-term on the streets either at the point of referral or previously. A quarter more were new to the streets. We moved 47 guests into accommodation, with only a handful returning to the streets after leaving the shelter.