Church winter night shelters in Ipswich are full to capacity and even having to turn homeless people away.
The night shelters are running at seven church halls across the town,
providing homeless people with a safe and warm place to sleep for the
night, away from the cold streets.
The churches take it in turns to run the shelter each night seven
days a week, with one venue remaining open every night of the week with
space for 12 men and women.
A total of 35 rough sleepers are staying at the shelter, supported by volunteers who serve up a hot dinner and breakfast.
Organisers said they were saddened to turn away 19 people because they did not have the space for them.
The shelters are open from 7pm to 8am seven days a week, and will be running until March.
The shelter at St Mary's, Stoke, was visited by the Right Reverend Dr
David Thomson, Acting Bishop of the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese,
who met all those involved and had the chance to learn about how the
project is helping local homeless people.
Bishop Thomson said: "It's so good that there is somewhere for those without a roof over their heads to go on these cold winter nights. The fact that all the beds have been taken on some occasions, with a
waiting list, shows that this is a real and pressing need, and I am
deeply thankful for the work of the 500 and more volunteers, and all the
organisers, donors and church authorities, who are working so well
together to make this service possible. The fact that there has been an increase call on the service by
women this year is something we will be discussing with our partners,
and we are also hoping that with their help more permanent accommodation
can be found where it is needed."
The Rev Canon Paul Daltry, Minister for Church and Community
Engagement within the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese, and chair of
the Ipswich Winter Night Shelter, said: "There are currently four people
on the waiting list of whom two are women and there are three women in at the moment."
Rev Daltry said the numbers of women had been much higher this year than in the two preceding years that the shelter has run.
He and the team are working with the Community Resource Centre (CRC)
to obtain permanent accommodation for seven guests, with the hope that
this will be secured by the end of the month.
"The shelter has been running very smoothly this year with wonderful
support from over 500 volunteers, their team leaders and the seven
church coordinators, all also volunteers," he said.
"There has been a wonderful generosity financially as well, that
means the shelter will probably break even, but we are still wanting to
develop further the new befriending project and other support in
cooperation with the Ipswich Locality Homelessness Partnership
principally through the CRC, thus further funds are sought. It would be good to be able to offer more beds next year too."