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2000 C of E congregations to support night shelters this winter
More than 2,000 Church of England congregations will be running or supporting night shelters this winter as homelessness projects cope with rising demand.
Churches are reporting that they are adding extra beds to night shelters and opening more days a week after figures show a rise in homelessness.
The Greater Together Manchester Night Shelter, part of Church Urban Fund’s Together Network, saw an increase in volunteers recently.
They provide 12 beds for six months of the year and are due to expand this month with a second night shelter, set up by the Greater Manchester Mayor’s office.
Guests sit down with volunteers to eat a hot meal every night and are supported during the day to find new accommodation and access benefits.
Lily Axworthy, Development Officer for Greater Together Manchester said: “Last year people were staying in the shelter for a shorter period of time, because their ‘move on’ was managed more quickly. However, the number of people sleeping rough has carried on increasing.
“What has been really heartening this year has been seeing an increase in the number of volunteers. We have more than 200 volunteers already. People really want to do something practical to help and something they feel will make a difference, particularly where they have experienced walking past people on the streets. By volunteering their time, they can make that practical difference.”
In London, 35 guests are given beds every night at the Robes project. They use 30 church venues in Southwark and Lambeth and have more than 1,000 volunteers.
George Martin, chair of Robes, who is part of the congregation at Southwark Cathedral, said: “More people are on the streets than ever before. Last year we looked after 81 guests and we moved 44 into accommodation. We work with our guests all year round, we have a fantastic Wednesday lunch club catering for up to 20 people a week. I think it is the most successful ecumenical project in the diocese and it has brought the different churches together.”
One shelter in Norfolk has increased their open night from two to seven in response to a rise in rough sleeping in King's Lynn.
The ecumenical project has received a council grant and more than 100 volunteers are working with the shelter.
The Rt Rev James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester and Chair of the Christian housing charity, Housing Justice, said:
“The reasons why people end up on the streets are complex, with many facing mental ill-health, many having been in care as children, and a good number having been released from prison.
“Behind the distressing rise in numbers, we must remember that behind each statistic is a person, a human being made in God’s image and thus worthy of dignity.
"I join others in praying that one day such shelters will not be necessary. But while they are, I give thanks for all those who work tirelessly to serve those who live on our streets or in other unstable settings. Their work is a valuable reminder to us all of God’s priority for the vulnerable and marginalised and of the value of every human person.”
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