Swindon Night Shelter appeals for volunteers as winter bites

By Anita Jaynes on 15 December, 2019

The team behind Swindon Night Shelter and its five projects (The Haven, The Hub, The Gates, The Hive and Night Shelter) to support the town’s homeless are appealing for both volunteers and cash as the winter draws in.

One of their projects, The Haven, which is a drop-in day centre for the homeless and those who are vulnerably housed, is now open for drop-in Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings and Tuesdays and Thursdays for appointments only for use of showers and laundry. As the temperature drops there are plans to open further when necessary.

The Haven opened in January this year and the team have so far had 2,950 guest visits and provided 1,700 lunches. To run the day centre for a day costs £103 plus utility bills.

Project Leader, Jan Bowra, said, “Our volunteers are valuable to us both at the Haven and those that support our other four provisions however we are extremely keen for more volunteers at the Haven, to help us stay open during the day between 9pm and 5pm to provide a place of safety and warmth for our guests.

Jan Bowra project leader at The Haven, part of Swindon Night Shelter.

“We also need financial support to help meet our extra bills as we are providing extended services due to the winter weather, dropping temperatures and the general rise in need this year.”

The Christian-based charity is also currently recruiting some temporary, paid night workers ready for the Winter Housing Project which will run from the Haven from 2nd January for three months. This  provides overnight accommodation for 12 people and is partly funded by a grant from Swindon Borough Council.

The Winter Housing Project was set up to target specific help to a small group of individuals  – identified by the council and other relevant parties – to have some stability and start to rebuild their lives. The grant funding covers the cost of four overnight staff for a three-month period. It does not cover any other costs.

Jan added, “We are very pleased to be running the Winter Housing Project for the council this year – however we wish to do far more next year. The 12 residents will have access to the day centre during the day alongside those who attend regularly. They will be offered mentoring, a place to wash their clothes, shower and lunch as usual but again to provide this extra help we do need volunteers, particularly in the early morning and also financial donations to cover costs.”

In October, for the first time in the ten year history of Swindon Night Shelter, the charity covered its monthly costs, meaning we could extend our hours and employ an extra staff member.

“This is huge for us as our goal is to be open 24/7 to serve those in need,” Jan said. “We would love to be self-sustaining, relying on donations and grants which are harder to get as needs rise across the country and this is a step towards this.”

There are also plans afoot to refurbish a temporary building on the site of The Haven and put specially designed ‘pods’ inside so that later in 2020, overnight accommodation can be offered to some people all year round.

Each pod, which are still in development thanks to Swindon’s own Enterprise Works, will cost £700 each and then further funds will be needed for simple furnishings. It’s hoped local businesses will be able to sponsor a ‘pod’.

Anyone who is able to help in any way over the winter period should get in touch by calling 01793 613166 or emailing admin@swindonnightshelter.org.uk .