CARING SUPPORT TO HELP
ROUGH SLEEPERS REBUILD THIER LIVES
Church communities in Windsor have been working together to help rough sleepers get off the streets and rediscover a better quality of life through a pilot night shelter project. Five churches in the Berkshire market town, including the Catholic, Anglican and Baptist places of worship, opened up their community halls during the winter to allow homeless people to spend the night in comfort and with a bed to sleep in.
Volunteers cooked up hot evening meals and supplied breakfast and, importantly, also provided advice, support and a listening ear to the people who turned up for the night.
The project called More Than A Shelter is all about relationship building – the aim being that by working with the homeless people and showing their care and compassion it may help them to look for the kind of support that will help them rebuild their lives, such as drug recovery or alcohol rehabilitation.
This even runs as far as their pets as it is one of the only homeless projects in the country where rough sleepers are allowed to bring their dogs along with them to encourage them to get involved. The project is run by a number of agencies including Caritas Portsmouth, the social action arm of the Diocese, as well as Foodshare and Churches Together in Windsor.
Caritas Director Kevin Gallagher said: “The pilot project was initially set up to provide a night shelter during the coldest months of the year. At least one of the five churches was open every night of the week and so there was always somewhere for people to stay the night.
“It is a purely voluntary led project, providing a high level of hospitality in terms of the cooked meals and a warm bed. We were overwhelmed by the level of response from the community. When we first sought volunteers we expected, maybe, 20 to 30 – around 160 actually came forward from all walks of life. The main aim of the project is to get people back into a more stable way of life by encouraging them and giving them the confidence to seek expert advice."
“One of the main causes of people becoming homeless is relationship breakdown and this can isolate people and make them feel very lonely. So one of the things the volunteers look to do is to build new relationships with them, which helps restore faith in people and community.” Caritas is now looking at the possibility of rolling out the project to other deaneries – but to also play a bigger role in getting to the root cause of rough sleeping.
Kevin added: “Windsor is no different to any town around the UK in that rough sleepers can be found on the streets. That is why a project such as this is so welcome and why we are already looking to bring it back next winter.
“But we also have a responsibility to look at the origins of the problem and try to resolve the issues that lead to rough sleeping. So we want to play our part alongside local councils, the police and other agencies in coming up with the solutions.”