The Norfolk and Norwich Christian community website

homeless-bedsNorwich winter night shelter had positive impact

The Norwich Community Winter Shelter Project provided rough sleepers with a safe, warm place to stay during the winter months. As the project draws to a close, organisers reflect on the impact of the shelter.  

Churches in the city worked in partnership with Norwich City Council to provide accommodation for rough sleepers from November through to the end of March. Norwich Central Baptist Church (NCBC) provided a venue for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights. Russell Street Community Centre, run by St Thomas’ church hosted guests on Friday and Saturday nights.

This is the first time a shelter like this has been provided in a co-ordinated way. It has been of great benefit to the 58 people who would otherwise have been sleeping on the streets. It has enabled some of them to engage with other services available and organisers believe that lives have been saved through the project.

Crucial to the project was the army of 55 volunteers from the local community who took on various roles – from welcoming guests as they arrived, providing overnight supervision, and clearing up in the morning.

Gill Duffy, from NCBC said, “I am so grateful to the volunteers who supported the shelter. An unexpected bonus was seeing friendships between the volunteers develop.  For some it was the first time they had worked with this client group and it was wonderful seeing them grow in confidence and understanding about the issues homeless people face.”

One of the most exciting elements of the project was the longer-term outcomes for rough sleepers. Of the 58 individuals who used the shelter over the winter months, 29 have since moved on to more settled accommodation.

Several of the guests remarked on the warm and friendly atmosphere at the shelter. For many it was more than a bed for the night; it was a place to have a chat, receive some guidance and advice and some compassionate human contact that is often missing on the streets. Some guests accessed health care as a result of using the shelter and it served as a starting point for getting their lives back on track.

Gill said, "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."

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