Night Shelters and Housing Justice
Newport Night Shelter
Night Shelters began in Wales when the evangelistic ministry, Teen Challenge, visited Newport in a bus. Volunteers for this coffee house on wheels then saw something else was needed – a night shelter for the city and district. Many of the homeless people they encountered were forced to sleep exposed to the elements. In the winter months, this was not only uncomfortable but also dangerous. In 2009, a small group of local people resolved to address this problem. Despite having no previous experience of running a night shelter, they were motivated to act. They visited the Hackney and Camden night shelters in London, adapting what they saw to create a model for Newport.
Night shelter guests are provided with a hot meal in the evening and breakfast in the morning. Each church in the programme hosts the shelter once a week for a two-month period; volunteers work in three shifts. Partnerships have been developed with drug agencies, housing officers and others, who identify those in need of accommodation and refer them to the shelter. Requiring a referral for all guests ensures that the background of everyone coming in is known, preventing many potential problems.
The impact has been dramatic. Over the two-year period before the shelter was started, fourteen people in Newport died of exposure to the cold. However, since the programme began, there have been no such deaths. Reflecting on the shelter’s success, its founder Stuart Johnson says: "With the night shelter, you’re stopping someone from dying on the streets in the coldest winter. That’s what it is – it’s life and death."
Newport Night Shelter was the first to open in Wales. It is open seven nights a week from early December until the end of March, involves 13 churches, mobilises approximately 300 volunteers, and accommodates up to 12 people each night.
For more information, see www.newportnightshelter.org.
Cardiff Night Shelter
Night Shelter Cardiff is run by a group of churches providing a warm place to eat and sleep for 3 winter months of the year for the homeless. Rhiwbina Baptist Church organises a team of volunteers who run the Night Shelter once a week at Calvary Baptist Church, Cowbridge Road East. The shelter sees around 80 visitors most weeks and helps to facilitate access to permanent accommodation, and other services including healthcare.
For more information, visit www.rbc.ac and look for Night Shelters under the “Community” tab, or email Helen Phillips, email@example.com.
Merthyr Night Shelter
Merthyr Night Shelter is run from Hope Church Merthyr. Each winter they partner with other churches in Merthyr Tydfil to provide a Night Shelter for the homeless in Merthyr Tydfil during the coldest months of the year. Ten bed spaces are available as well as a free evening and morning meal, and a group of trained, compassionate volunteers work to make the night shelter a home from home.
The shelter is always looking for volunteers. Please contact the Church at www.hopemerthyr.org.uk if you would be interested in helping or donating.
Swansea Night Shelter
Swansea Churches team up to provide Night Shelters for some of the City’s rough sleepers during the cold winter nights. It’s all part of the Swansea Night Shelter project, organised by Swansea Hope (a network of local churches). The project is delivered in partnership with local homeless organisations and charities. Churches across the city offer a hot meal, a warm bed and breakfast over a 3-month period.
For further information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Housing Justice is a national organisation that supports the growing national network of Church and Community Night Shelters. It provides information and advice, and may help in securing eligibility for a Cinnamon grant.
The Housing Justice Churches Night Shelter Aim is "To develop the culture and practice of Christian hospitality to homeless people that leads to personal transformation, thus providing the foundation for movement away from the Streets and towards 'home'."
Two of the resources that Housing Justice makes available are "Shelter in a Pack" and the Shelter Quality Mark.
Shelter in a Pack is a key element of the Housing Justice support package for churches setting up new shelters. It is designed to help churches and others who want to be a part of this important ministry to get set up and established, offering vital advice and support.
The Housing Justice Shelter Quality Mark is designed to be used by existing Church Night Shelters as a standard of excellence. It is an assurance to funders, local authorities, insurers, shelter guests and the local community that the shelter is run to the highest standard.
For more information see www.housingjustice.org.uk/pages/shelters.html.
Housing Justice Night Shelters are recognised by the Cinnamon Network, and churches starting a Night Shelter in Wales with the help of Housing Justice may be eligible for a Cinnamon micro-grant of up to £2,000 – see www.cinnamonnetwork.co.uk/micro-grants-wales.