The Folkestone Churches Winter Shelter, which provides hot meals, refreshments and a safe and warm place for Folkestone’s rough sleepers has closed its doors for an eighth year.
The Shelter, which is based in seven churches across the town opened in December, and was full for most of the evenings. Over the three months, there were 35 guest registrations as well as a small waiting list.
The Winter Shelter worked closely with the Rainbow Centre’s Homeless Support Service to provide support with finding permanent housing, as well as help with matters of finance and health. As a result of this service, 33% of guests have subsequently found permanent housing or temporary accommodation. In addition to the Shelter, guests were able to access a drop in service for four mornings a week, to give them respite from walking the streets. This facility was used over 300 times demonstrating the need for daytime occupation for the guests.
Throughout the winter – including Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve, 177 Winter Shelter volunteers gave a total of 5,230 hours. In financial terms, this can be valued at a staggering £37,500.
Ali Chambers is the Rainbow Centre’s Project Manager for the Winter Shelter. She says: “The Winter Shelter provides a valuable service within the community and this year, as in previous years, demand is high and we worked hard to help as many people as possible.”
She continues, “I’d like to thank the amazing Winter Shelter team and our volunteers who gave up so much time providing food, refreshments and hospitality for our guests. For many volunteers, it is a humbling experience and they get as much out of the experience as the guests themselves – we certainly couldn’t have done it without them.”
For guests, the Winter Shelter and the support offered by the Rainbow Centre can be life-changing. The following are quotes given by guests of this year’s Shelter.
Names have been changed.
“I was released in December from the prison system and, for one reason or another, the authorities were unable to arrange any accommodation. I was cast onto the streets to make my own arrangements. This was the first place I could find that gave me any positive encouragement.”
“I will be the first one to admit I used to look at people on the street and think – get a job, do something – but it’s not like that. When we come into these places, that’s it. The doors are closed and we are safe and happy”
“It’s been like getting my life back again. All I want to do is feel healthy and get into my own home and being here with the warm and good friends I’ve made, has made all the difference to my life. Here you get respect and you have someone you can talk to, and someone who will listen to you. It’s the respect of life. I truly want to come back and help those who have helped me.”