Two people eating together at a church winter night shelter

Churches save lives this winter

All over the country, there are churches preparing rooms for homeless people.

Rough sleepers have been able to access a hot meal, safe, warm bed, and other facilities, instead of risking death by sleeping rough during the coldest part of the year.

How shelters meet the need

Winter night shelters are often set up and coordinated by a group of local churches. Other community groups and faith groups get involved in providing venues, volunteers and donations. The shelters are all run slightly differently, depending on the local need and the resources available.

Generally, they are open for three or four months over the winter, although some are open for longer and even run a drop-in service all year round.

Often the shelter rotates between several venues, moving on a weekly or nightly basis. The facilities they offer vary, from venues with showers and laundry facilities, to computers for guests to use.

Most shelters open at around 5pm and provide a meal, evening activities, and a bed, usually in a large room laid out like a dormitory. In the morning, breakfast will be served, and guests will have to leave at around 9am. The shelter may be packed up and moved to a different location for the following night.

These shelters are run by churches and communities as a response to the need they see on the streets around them every day. The average shelter has more than a hundred volunteers, who sort donations, set up beds, clean, cook, and serve food. Most importantly they welcome guests, listen to them, and offer support and advice.

They work closely with local services to help their guests find work, access healthcare and benefits, reconnect with their family, or find a safe and affordable place to live. The rough sleepers staying at these shelters may have only one barrier preventing their move on from homelessness. They may need one piece of ID, a way to get to work, or a rent deposit.

This winter, we have already seen the positive effects of funding on the shelter guests:

“We are very grateful for the support that has been provided to several of our guests already. It has been used towards their move-on purchases, which has made a huge difference to making their new accommodation into a home.”

Tina, C4WS Homeless Project, London

Thanks to our donors, we are able to help their homeless guests to find permanent homes.

Images with thanks to C4WS Homeless Project, London