Introduction to The Shelter Project Hounslow (TSPH)
Project Coordinator: Nicola Spencer
Churches in Hounslow across denominations working together to offer the homeless a safe and warm environment in the coldest winter months.
An opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ to those who for various reasons have no roof over their heads, and who have suffered the lack of a sense of community, human compassion and kindness.
Supporting local referral agencies working with the homeless to help individual’s access appropriate support and encourage them in their transition back into community and out of homelessness.
Providing 14 male guests’ hot food and accommodation from January to March inclusive. These will mainly be individuals with no recourse to public funds, but a small percentage who have temporary housing needs will also be welcomed on the advice of local referral agencies.
Winter Night Shelters
The pilot project of the shelters will ran from Sunday 8 January until Saturday 31 March 2012. In future years if it is viable the shelters could begin from mid-November until the end of March every year. Each shelter will be held in a different church each night of the week, providing emergency accommodation for up to 14 guests every night. In 2012 the guests were only be men. The focus will very much be on the quality of service to guests: welcome, hospitality, inclusivity and non-judgement provided by a team of committed volunteers from local churches.
Guests and volunteers will sit and eat together, which will help guests feel “at home”. This has been proven successful in engaging those who have previously been unable or unwilling to work with mainstream support services.
Everybody who stays at the shelters will be given a sleeping mat, duvet, pillow, towel, small basin and basic toiletries. All guests will be offered a cooked main evening meal as well as breakfast in the mornings. Additionally TSP will offer bus passes to help guests travel between shelters during the week and to attend their various appointments during the daytime.
The idea of running winter night shelters for the homeless began with church members at Christ Church Turnham Green as extreme cold weather hit London in November 2011. Preliminary investigations led to contacts with Housing Justice, West London Churches Homeless Concern and The Upper Room. All those involved with this ministry to the homeless were extremely supportive of any endeavour to help those with desperate need for respite care through the coldest days of London’s winter.
In March the Church Council at Christ Church gave permission for a small steering group to research the need for shelters locally, and to speak to church leaders in Chiswick, Brentford and Isleworth about possible collaboration based on a 7 church model of operation. Members of the steering group also worked with winter shelters at St Simon’s Rockley Road and Cornerstone Church in Leytonstone to experience the nature of the ministry.
In July 2011 an information meeting was held, with the Rev Paul Reily invited as guest speaker. Members from 15 churches attended this meeting and expressed great enthusiasm. In September the PCC of Christ Church officially endorsed the proposal for running the scheme, then given the official name The Shelter Project. Partners from 24 churches began to apply as volunteers.
Three referral agencies, namely St Mungo’s, Acton Homeless Concern, and London Thames Reach Street Rescue agreed to help assemble a list of guests and to assess them for suitability. As this is a pilot project, it was decided that only guests with low needs would be admitted, to encourage volunteers who are as yet inexperienced in this work. The lack of space for separate facilities also determined the choice not to include female guests at this time, but it was agreed that a small percentage of guests with some entitlement to benefits would be periodically rotated off when they are able to move on, to allow others with no recourse to public funds to access the shelters. All guests would initially be guaranteed 28 nights of accommodation from the start of the provision in January 2012.
By December 2011 five churches had signed on to serve as shelters, namely St Paul’s Parish Church in Brentford, Brentford Free Church, Holy Trinity Hounslow, St Michael’s and St Martin’s Roman Catholic Church in Hounslow, and Christ Church Turnham Green.