King’s Lynn Night Shelter provides 24/7 kindness
This winter the King’s Lynn Night Shelter has turned into a 24-hour shelter with guests in individual rooms. Lucy McKitterick, Night Shelter Co-ordinator, reports.
The Night Shelter opened for this winter season on November 6, after delays in planning due in part to the rapidly changing situation with Covid-19 in Norfolk and in the UK. From a summer of planning a night-only shelter, hoping to allow guests to share rooms, we were asked overnight to prepare for a 24-hour shelter with guests in individual rooms and with all the increased staffing costs and changes in operation this would involve.
Our staff and volunteers have been wonderful in adapting to this new model of working and we are particularly grateful to the volunteers who helped us with long day shifts during the first few weeks while further staff were recruited and inducted. Thanks to you our guests had a home nearly a month sooner than they might otherwise have done.
Those of our volunteers and staff who have been with us both last winter and this will recognise that a 24-hour shelter for six guests is a very different operation to a night shelter for 22. In many ways it is far better for our guests, who no longer have to walk out into the rain and frost at 9am every morning or wait hours in the dark for our doors to open at 7pm every evening or manage the (not inconsiderable) social and practical challenges of sharing rooms with people they may not know or know only too well.
In nine winters of working in night shelters this is the first time that I have heard no complaints about snoring. I am grateful for our 24-hour shelter every time I step outside in the daytime into the winter cold. But other things are not so good. The obvious but complex problems are that we can no longer welcome in all the people who come to our door for help; and the equal puzzle of how we can best help the guests who do come to stay with us.
And yet in one way the most important part of our work has not changed. The Night Shelter continues to be a place of welcome and sanctuary; of listening, of patient and persistent kindness, and the unconditional positive regard which all of us need to thrive; of honesty which looks at our guests as they are and not as we or anyone else would prefer them to be. Once again, this winter, all of them are with us because there is currently no-one else able or willing to have them under their roof, and all of them are with us as God’s children with as much value as anyone else.
And this changelessness gives us hope. Hope for King’s Lynn and for Norfolk, who have once again given help in time and money and practical support to make the Night Shelter possible; and hope for all of us, that even in a time when life has become so much more difficult, kindness and compassion for others are just as richly visible as before.
Pictured above is Lucy McKiterrick