The Wanstead Winter Night Shelter launched at Christ Church hall last month. Revd Canon Ann Clarke reports on the largely volunteer work that has made it such a useful resource for their weekly guests
Steven Timms, MP for East Ham, acknowledged recently that if it were not for Faith Group Night Shelters, 2,200 more people would be sleeping on the streets of London each night.
As part of Forest Churches Emergency Night Shelter (FCENS), Wanstead Parish opened its parish hall doors on 7 January to guests for the very first time. We were able to provide our visitors with a welcoming hot drink, a nourishing hot meal, shelter and breakfast, and a listening ear and a smile.
Thanks to the financial support from our crowdfunding supporters and Aviva employees, £8,491 was the official sum raised, including £2,000 from the Aviva Community Fund. We were able to purchase a dedicated warming oven, fridge, new dishwasher, oven and microwave in time for the opening of the shelter, as well as room dividers, sleeping bags, food, storage equipment and a key fire safety system – a mandatory requirement for having guests sleep overnight.
The generosity of the local community has been overwhelming: in volunteering (40-plus people on the current rota); in donations from our Christmas services; and in donations of clothing and food from our Reverse Advent Calendar. Special thanks to Lizi at The Cuckfield and John at Petty Son and Prestwich for collecting so much and for supporting this venture.
Wanstead Parish has joined FCENS, which has a well-established scheme. A full-time worker, Tunde, works all year round with the homeless men and women in Waltham Forest and beyond. All guests are known by him and he attends each shelter to register them. There is also a paid worker, Anthony, who attends each shelter to help run the night shift with a volunteer. All other workers are volunteers.
Our team begins at 6pm each Tuesday to set up the hall, putting out the bedding and tables and being there to greet and engage with the guests. Teams of three or four people provide a nourishing hot meal and another group of volunteers serve and clear up. The volunteer night watch person arrives at 9pm. At 5.50am the breakfast team arrive and the guests leave by 7am. Due to the amazing amount of good quality clothing and new items, such as underpants, socks, hats, shoes and toiletries donated by the community, we have also been able to send our guests on their way with a much-needed care package.
Wanstead Parish considers it a privilege to be running this shelter once a week during the winter months. We see it as being part of our Christian duty to home the homeless, feed the hungry and clothe the naked. We would like to thank so many members of our wider community for helping us to offer this important community resource.