When a group of us volunteering at Monday night foodbank distribution began noticing that the number of guests with NFA (No Fixed Abode) was becoming more and more frequent, alongside the number of street homeless guests, we decided something needed to be done. No one should have to make Hanley public toilets or a Middleport Canal Bridge their bed for a night or carry all their possessions around on their backs and setting up a winter night shelter seemed like one way of beginning to make a difference for those sleeping rough.
The statistics suggest that 2,744 rough sleepers can be found on any one night in England (Crisis UK) and 16 of these will be bedding down in the streets of Stoke-on-Trent each night. (JSNA) Of course, it’s quite likely that both these numbers are higher as those sleeping rough tend to hide themselves away for numerous reasons but they certainly give us a mandate to act on this issue. 16 people. That’s 1.45 football teams or One Direction + 3 tribute bands. Surely we can make room for 16 people in Stoke-on-Trent so that they can have the dignity of sleeping in a bed rather than the pavement?
Since that initial concern manifested itself, many meetings have been held and more planned with a variety of passionate folk from across different sectors and areas of the city. Discussion regarding the practicalities of setting up and running a night shelter is well under way. What venue do we use? How do we fund it? Who will staff it? The issues to think about are pretty hefty and there’s not always a clear answer but by no means has this disheartened us. If anything, it’s spurring us on to work harder and faster in order to realise our vision of no one having to sleep rough in our city. Asking these difficult questions has led us to linking up with Housing Justice, a Christian charity that works for action on homelessness and housing issues. They have a wealth of expertise in establishing and running Winter Night Shelters all across the UK and we’re very much looking forward to the help and guidance they can give us.
Now, the great thing about this vision is that anyone can get behind it. Everyone has something they can offer in order to help get this project off the ground. Are you a fabulous fundraiser? Why not raise some money to help us buy bedding and toiletries? Enjoy cooking? You could volunteer to make an evening meal for our guests at one of the shelter venues. Perhaps you’re a people person with a heart for reaching out to those that most people ignore…if that’s the case, there’s definitely a role for you to play in Stoke’s Winter Night Shelter.
Colder temperatures appear to have set in over the past few days and winter is definitely on its way. We’re going to need all hands on deck, everything that this generous community can offer, if we’re going to be ready to welcome Stoke’s rough sleepers into a warmer, safer and more supportive environment. If you share this vision; if you want to find out more about our progress or if you want to get involved please get in touch! All emails to: firstname.lastname@example.org would be greatly received!
CRISIS UK: http://www.crisis.org.uk/
Housing Justice: http://www.housingjustice.org.uk/