As Canterbury’s night winter shelter gets up and running for its ninth year, this year it will be in place for double the usual amount of time – six months instead of three.
The shelter, which is run by Catching Lives and provides rough sleepers with an evening meal and a bed for the night, opened for the first time this season on Monday (1 October) and was used by eight people. It will now operate every night until the end of March 2019 and has 20 beds available.
One of the key aims behind the shelter is to work with the clients who access it and try and prevent them from returning to the streets. This includes addressing any health concerns, arranging benefits and securing accommodation.
The expansion of the shelter has been made possible by two successful bids by the city council for government cash totalling £550,000 over the last year, which will fund services for two years.
As well as paying for the increase in the winter shelter, the money will fund a variety of other projects.
This includes the recent recruitment of a full time street population coordinator at the council, Daniel Gould. He and his colleagues from the council’s partner agencies Catching Lives and Porchlight are out and about on the streets every day, talking to rough sleepers, understanding the issues they each face and developing individual support plans for each of them.
It will also pay for an expansion of the council’s Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP), which kicks in during times of extreme cold. As well as more discretion to consider implementing it at times when the weather may not be classed as severe, it will also be in place for longer after the inclement weather ends, providing more time to work with people to prevent them going back on the street.
And it will fund additional outreach workers for Catching Lives and Porchlight, to include the coastal towns and villages.
Chairman of the council’s Community Committee, Cllr Neil Baker, said: “The winter shelter plays a vital role in keeping people off the streets as the temperature plummets. And while it might feel relatively mild right now, the weather can deteriorate rapidly at this time of year.
“We are very pleased to have secured this additional funding and thank our partners at Catching Lives for all their hard work in getting the shelter up and running once again.”
Catching Lives Project Leader, Graeme Solly, said: “We have seen in previous years that, for some of our clients, simply providing a safe and warm place for them to sleep at night has given them enough stability in their lives to be able to focus on addressing other areas, including their physical and mental health, which has led to many positive housing outcomes.
“The additional three months that the Canterbury Community Shelter will be running means that we have a greater chance to work with those who decide to stay, which increases the chances that they will be able to secure settled accommodation.
“We are grateful to our seven partner churches who provide the overnight venues, and all of our volunteers, for their support in extending the winter shelter and we look forward to working alongside them over the next six months.”