Ealing Churches Winter Nightshelter - an Update

Sue Garland, Kingsdown updates us on last winter's season of the Ealing Churches Winter Nightshelter

On 30th April there was a virtual on-line meeting for Ealing Churches Winter Nightshelter volunteers providing an update on last winter’s season from late November to March. As you know several of the churches in our Circuit participated in providing shelters.

Because of the Covid-19 virus, the shelter had to close early on March 19th after one of the guests had become unwell and tested positive. Fortunately temporary accommodation was found for the guests and none of the others are known to have contracted the infection.

During the last season the Nightshelter received 135 referrals and enquiries and was able to offer places to 60 guests (48 men and 12 women) during its four months of operation. This was an increase on previous years. Some of the guests were only in the shelter briefly before moving on which is why the total was 60 even though only 14 people can be accommodated at a time. As usual, quite a number of the guests had particular needs due to poor physical or mental health or because they were recovering from addiction problems.

The shelter trustees were especially grateful to Liz, the Rough Sleeper Leader employed by Ealing Council who is very experienced, having previously worked for St Mungo’s, the charity helping homeless people. Liz provided very welcome support in helping to secure accommodation for the guests. When guests were due to move into permanent accommodation they often need practical help to set up home with household furniture and equipment. The Nightshelter administrator had appealed to volunteers for donations and was impressed by the large quantity of good quality items that have been given.

During the on-line meeting we were given updates on the guests which included the young Bulgarian couple who were in the shelter last December. Their baby boy has been born but is going to be fostered as they aren’t in a position to care for him themselves. A number of the guests who were with the shelter when it had to close in mid-March are now staying in a hotel at Heston where caseworkers from relevant agencies are able to work with them during the lockdown period. While it is hoped to find work or benefits and permanent accommodation for as many as possible, arrangements may also be made to continue housing and help for those guests who have no recourse to public funds (i.e. not eligible for any benefits).

The Nightshelter administrator and the shelter worker will continue to liaise with the guests over the coming months. However, the longer term future is uncertain as it will clearly not be possible for the Nightshelter to operate in its usual way next winter if social distancing requirements are still in place as is likely to be the case. The charity Housing Justice is being consulted, as well as Ealing Council, for what are termed “creative solutions” in the hope that there may be some way that the Nightshelter can still be involved. In the meantime, prayers are appreciated, especially for offers of suitable accommodation for the remaining guests who will need to move on from the hotel in Heston and that the guests will accept the appropriate guidance and support that is available to them.