Charities and organisations working to support people who are homeless in Bristol are getting ready for winter as the cold weather begins to set in. As part of the City Office, the Bristol Churches Winter Night Shelter project is back for an extended run, following a successful pilot last year. This will follow on from Caring at Christmas, which runs a night shelter during the festive period.
In addition, more than 100 extra bed spaces will be available for people sleeping rough in the city when the cold weather hits Bristol as part of the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP). Coordinated through Crisis Centre Ministries, and supported by the City Office, the churches shelter scheme will be open for three months from Friday 5 January. Twelve churches will host the shelter over the 12 week period, with the project providing 12 beds every night of the week.
Volunteers from across the church community and beyond will help to run the shelter.
Shelter guests will be nominated by the St Mungo’s Outreach Team and during their stay they will be supported to find move-on accommodation.
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “I am extremely grateful to the churches in Bristol for accepting the challenge from the City Office and once again opening their doors to the homeless this winter.
“I visited this project when it opened last year, and I was overwhelmed by the positive atmosphere and the dedication of the volunteers, and I am delighted to see that it has been expanded this year.
“Homelessness remains one of the biggest problems we face in the city. It is a complex problem without a single, clear solution. While these shelter beds provide a vital lifeline in the short term, we are working hard to get organisations across the city to come together to progress towards long term change.
“With the cold weather setting in, it remains our priority to get people off the streets and find sustainable solutions and safe, supportive environments for some of the city’s most vulnerable people.”
Caring in Bristol has launched its annual ‘Caring at Christmas’ appeal to help provide homeless people with warm safe beds, food, and social activities during the Christmas period. Now in its 30th year, the project aims to welcome over 200 guests into their shelter each day, provide 70 beds each night and serve 5000 hot meals.
The charity is looking for financial donations and for people over the age of 18 who would like to volunteer for at least two shifts at the shelter during the Caring at Christmas opening times. Volunteers can choose to be ‘guest-facing’, where they chat, play board games, watch films and socialise with the people staying at the shelter. There is also a ‘non-guest-facing’ option for volunteers who want to help in the kitchen and with other duties.
To find out more about how to volunteer and where to donate visit www.caringinbristol.org.uk/caring-at-christmas
The Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) aims to prevent loss of life during periods of extreme weather. It also presents an opportunity to engage with long-term rough sleepers, who are normally resistant to coming indoors.
SWEP is activated when the Met Office predicts three consecutive nights (or more) of a minimum temperature of zero degrees centigrade or below or where there is evidence that severe weather conditions are having a significant impact on the health of people sleeping rough.
The SWEP provision will be coordinated from the Compass Centre run by St Mungo’s. Priority for access to SWEP spaces will be decided by the Outreach team. People will be allocated bed spaces from the Compass Centre and advised on how to reach the hostel bed spaces.
A new contactless donation point has been launched to help support the charities that run Bristol’s night shelters. The donation station at Bristol Energy by the Watershed, will join the two existing contactless stations on Broadmead Shopping Quarter, which have so far raised nearly £3k over four months.
David Ingerslev, Project Manager at St Mungo’s and Rough Sleeping Partnership lead, said: “It is free for people to stay at our night shelters but we rely heavily on fundraising and volunteers. The stations are helping bring new support to the original #SOSBristol campaign. It is vital we connect with people rough sleeping and offer then a safer life away from the streets. It is dangerous to for anyone to be sleeping rough, dangerous to their physical and mental health.”
The night shelters are run by St Mungo’s, The Julian Trust, Caring in Bristol and Crisis Centre Ministries, who are all part of the Rough Sleeping Partnership, set up by Bristol City Council to tackle the problem of street homelessness in the city.
If you are concerned about someone who is rough sleeping ANYONE can make a street referral via www.Streetlink.org.uk
What can we do as a community?
If you are concerned about someone who is rough sleeping ANYONE can make a street referral via Streetlink.org.uk giving the following information:
o the rough sleeper’s name (if known)
o physical description
o any distinguishing characteristics (e.g. colour of distinctive clothing/possessions/sleeping bag or distinctive accent)
o specific location where the person is sleeping
o Time they were seen
Safer off the Streets (#SOSBristol): The four charities that provide night shelters to support rough sleepers have come together to set up a single, online crowdfunding appeal that offers people the chance to donate a specific sum – £17 – to provide one bed for one night to a homeless person. https://www.fundsurfer.com/project/bristol-rough-sleeping-partnership
None of our night shelters can operate without the dedication of volunteers, and in Bristol, helping the homeless by giving up a night a week or a night a month is the best way. You can contact the charities directly:
• St Mungo’s: telephone 0117 954 2958 | website www.mungos.org
• Julian Trust: telephone 0117 924 4604 | website www.juliantrust.org.uk
• Crisis Centre Ministries: telephone 0117 330 1230 | website www.crisis-centre.org.uk
• Caring in Bristol telephone 0117 9244 444 | website www.caringinbristol.org.uk
Think you or a friend or family member might be at risk of homelessness? It is vital to seek advice as soon as possible. It is much easier to get the help you need before you find yourself homeless. Visit https://www.bristol.gov.uk/housing/homeless-or-at-risk-of-being-homeless for more information.
Taking early action can avoid reaching crisis point. There is good advice and guidance available online: CAB, MA. There are also advice and support services available in Bristol: ACFA, ACORN and Relate.