We often hear the question ‘Why can’t you just accept everyone who is homeless into the Winter Shelter?’ It is a valid question and one that, unless you work professionally in the homeless sector, is not always immediately obvious.
To qualify for assessment for the Winter Shelter you must be over 18 and Homeless (have no accommodation/current tenancy agreement/own any property). Priority will always be given to Rough Sleepers (individuals sleeping on the streets).
We will also consider local connection. This is because we already know there are more people rough sleeping locally than we have beds in the night shelter. Many of our donations come from local people, local businesses, Folkestone Town Council, Folkestone & Hythe District Council, local churches and other local charitable organisations and we feel it is right and proper, to accommodate local people first.
We will always complete a risk assessment during our registration process. Contrary to what may be believed, this assessment is not used to ‘see if someone is dangerous’, but rather, it allows us to assess the medical, physical and social needs of our guests. We can then decide how to best support them with those needs, because whether they are allocated a bed on the shelter or not, we will always support those who come to us seeking help.
The other thing to remember is that, in terms of risk assessment, inviting someone into a venue for a meal, or to a social space during the day for a couple of hours, as we do with other projects, is very different to accommodating guests overnight.
Sometimes a person’s needs and complex issues may be too high to be supported within the Shelter environment. Other people may be too vulnerable. The risk assessment is simply a way to safeguard our clients and volunteers and ensure we can meet everyone’s needs.
Whatever the outcome, it will be based on a carefully considered assessment taking into account that particular individual’s support needs, history, mental and physical health, and any other relevant factors.
If we do decline to give someone a bed space, there will always be a good reason, but due to respect for the individual and their confidentiality, this is not something we would share with others. In this case we would continue to support and help the person to receive appropriate solutions for their particular situations.