Urgent appeal for Swindon’s rough sleepers

By Anita Jaynes on 19 December, 2018

The team behind The Haven, the new day centre to support Swindon’s rough sleepers which opens on Wednesday January 2, are appealing for items to help finish equipping it and create a welcome space for guests. 

The Haven, which is in the Riverside Centre in Queens Drive, is entirely run and managed by Swindon Night Shelter. 

The building has been kindly provided and made safe by Swindon Council yet it was an empty shell when it was taken over a few weeks ago. The Swindon Night Shelter team has been overwhelmed by the support received however there are still a few essential items needed as a matter of urgency before the Day Centre opens. 

Organiser Becky Davison said: “We are in desperate need of items to make The Haven a homely and welcoming space for guests – and also to make it a functional space for volunteers and our small paid part-time team. 

“We will be welcoming all the services that support the homeless and vulnerably housed across Swindon so our guests can receive the best support possible under one roof. This could be support around mental health issues, housing, addiction or any other issue faced by our guests. 

“We receive no regular funding from the council and rely totally on donations of money, services, goods and time from volunteers and the support of local businesses and churches. We are so grateful to Swindon Council for providing a building so we can offer this service and we’re appealing to the community to help us furnish it for its long-term sustainability.”

Among the items needed as a matter of urgency are:

*Beds and bedside cabinets.

*Chests of drawers

*Stackable chairs.

*Collapsible tables

*Computers

*Mobile phones. 

The Haven is seen as an answer to prayer for The Swindon Night Shelter team. They began ten years ago providing help for rough sleepers in the town after founder members got involved with the Street Pastors’ initiative. This led to St Mary’s Church, Swindon answering the call to allow us access to their building overnight to offer a warm place to stay and be cared for – a ministry which still runs today.

As the ministry evolved, the team needed storage facilities and a warehouse space was taken in the Cheney Manor area. As more goods were donated, those who were homeless started to volunteer to help out. This volunteering boosted their confidence and, for some, was the start of a journey back to living a full and productive life. 

Becky said: “Over time we realised there was something missing for the homeless or vulnerably housed in Swindon. Often provision requires them to be free of drugs or free of alcohol and to agree to certain behaviours before they are offered accommodation. They suddenly have to be able to cook, clean and function ‘normally’ immediately. 

“For many that’s just not possible – they need to be encouraged and supported to get there, otherwise placements will fail. We hope to be the new link in that chain and get our guests ready to access the many valuable services already offering longer term accommodation”.

“We realised having a drop-in centre which offers food, warmth, a place to spend time and also becomes a one-stop shop for those who want to make a change was the next step to help support our guests as we were rapidly outgrowing our current base at BSS House. This, and our other ministries, all help create an opportunity for all the individuals we support to make lasting change in their lives at their pace.”

Anyone who can donate items should drop them at Unit 45, BSS House, Cheney Manor, SN2 2PJ any time between 9am and 1pm Tuesday to Friday – or call 07586 420011

Pictured above: Becky Davison, co-founder of Swindon Night Shelter and project leader for The Haven. Photo taken by Lis McDermott Photography.