People believe that the night shelter has saved lives, including some of the guests themselves.”
Churches in Norwich worked in partnership with Norwich City Council to provide accommodation for rough sleepers from November through to March. Norwich Central Baptist Church on Duke Street provided the venue for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights and Russell Street Community Centre, run by St Thomas’ church hosted guests on Friday and Saturday nights.
58 people had shelter who would otherwise have been sleeping on the streets.
Gill Duffy from NCBC helped to co-ordinate the army of volunteers required for the project. This is the story of the Winter Night Shelter in her words.
How many volunteers did you need?
We had 55 volunteers. It required 2 people from 9-11pm, 3 people to stay over each night and others would arrive in the morning to offer drinks and to clear up. We also had a social worker each evening.
How many guests did you have?
We had 58 guests in total. These people would have been sleeping on the streets and we had a particularly cold winter through to February so it was great that we could provide some relief.
Some of the guests were long term rough sleepers, others had become homeless during the time the winter shelter was running.
What did you provide?
The winter shelter was somewhere warm and dry for people to sleep. We didn’t do hot meals, but we did have food donated to us from Greggs, food which hadn’t been sold at the end of the day and also drinks donated from Tesco, so we were able to provide refreshments. The most important thing was a safe and dry place to sleep.
Apart from the shelter, how did you help the guests?
We were able to give them a safe, non-threatening environment. They enjoyed chatting to our volunteers and we gave them support and guidance to look at the next steps. Some people find it very hard to engage with the services available to them so we helped to point them in the right direction, some have been persuaded to apply to the hostels available in Norwich. This is hard for some people and the volunteers were instrumental in helping to form friendships and offer advice.
How did the volunteers benefit from the project?
I noticed changes in some of the volunteers.
Some had never worked with homeless people before and it was wonderful seeing them grow in confidence and understanding about the issues homeless people face.
Will the Winter Shelter run again?
We are fortunate in Norwich that there are excellent services for homeless people and it is really positive that the Winter Night Shelter was part of that. There were challenges at times and we are very tired! Once we have a moment to recover, we will review the project and reflect on how it could be changed and improved next year. It was definitely a worthwhile thing to do. 29 people are now in settled accommodation. Some of the guests believe the winter shelter saved their lives.
For more information
If you would like further information on support available for homeless people in Norwich, you can contact St.Martin’s Housing at https://stmartinshousing.org.uk