Friday 20 January 2017

Temporary night shelter for rough sleepers in Gloucester

Gloucester City Mission

There’s some good news for anyone struggling with homelessness in Gloucester this winter. Until 31st March 2017, they can get temporary overnight shelter when the weather is severe, thanks to a new short term collaboration. We’ve teamed up with Gloucester City Mission to provide a temporary safe place for rough sleepers. The George Whitfield Centre on 107 Western Road, Gloucester, GL1 3NF will open occasionally from 9pm to 8am. Rough sleepers will not only have somewhere to rest their heads, but also vital support and a listening ear from experienced staff and volunteers. The combination of specialist knowledge and experience of both organisations will benefit those struggling with homelessness on so many levels, including food and drink, showers and toiletries, clean clothes, a sleeping bag exchange (clean for dirty) and transport to the centre if necessary.

So far, we’ve been open between 12-15 and 19-22 January, with 13 referrals and between five and seven people sleeping in each night. Nicky Bale, Project Co-ordinator, commented at the opening, ‘it was heart-warming to see people inside and safe, relaxing and taking their shoes and socks off for the first time in a very long time. That truly is a sign that someone feels safe. I’m pleased to say that at the end of each opening period, we’ve been able to get our guests ongoing support.’

Anyone who finds themselves homeless can get a referral to the centre from Dave Kinghorn at Gloucester City Mission, as long as contact is made before 4pm each day the centre is open – dave@gloscitymission.org.uk. Opening days will be determined by the partners, when the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol is in force. Please follow us @EmmausGlos on Twitter to find out exactly when the centre is open because it is only available in extreme weather conditions.

Addie Stevenson, our CEO, says, ‘we’re really thankful to everyone for making this happen. Support has been incredible. We’re reaching out to those who need a safe place in severe weather. We want to be here for the growing numbers of people entrenched in this negative cycle of homelessness and short term accommodation. However, we definitely don’t want to sustain unsafe rough sleeping – that’s why we have a long term solution at Emmaus Gloucestershire. We provide a home and work for 32 people who used to be homeless. We really want to expand and take more people off the streets, getting them the help they need. Long term, we aim to increase the number of places within our Community. Meanwhile, providing overnight shelter at this time of the year is the least we can do.’

With short term tenancies on the increase, many people are just moments away from homelessness. Mental health issues or traumatic experiences (like debt, eviction, family breakdown, domestic abuse and domestic violence) can also lead to the loss of a stable home. Cold, wet, tired and hungry, these people will now get a temporary safe place to rest, along with some respite from the desperation of surviving the winter months. The Homelessness Reduction Bill was passed in the House of Commons on 27th January and will be debated in The House of Lords on 24th February. If the bill is passed, councils will be obliged to help single people as well as families. Thanks to all the Gloucestershire MPs who have supported the bill.

You can help by donating toiletries, warm clothes and sleeping bags to our shops and we will get them out to those who need them. We’re also looking for local take away cafés who want to provide free hot meals on our opening nights. If you know anyone who can help, please get in touch at admin@emmausglos.org.uk.