Alleviating poverty, bringing hope

NOAH Winter Shelter Opened on 28th November 2016

It’s that time of year when most of us turn up our heating, glad to get indoors as the night draws in. For people forced to sleep outside, winter time can present a far more serious threat. We all know how being cold feels, but prolonged exposure to extreme cold overnight can truly be life-threatening. High winds can cause injury to those sleeping rough, in insecure derelict buildings at best, whilst heavy rain can make people ill and damage their difficult-to-replace items such as identification papers.

NOAH’s Emergency Winter Shelter is there to help local people in this most desperate of situations. For its ninth consecutive year, the Shelter is opening throughout the Winter on nights when the temperature drops to 0°C. This will give people who are homeless and rough sleeping a place of warmth, comfort and safety to sleep during the coldest of nights. Over the last three winters, 228 individuals have used our winter Shelter. NOAH CEO Jim O’Connor MBE makes it clear how essential the Shelter is, saying

“if we did not provide our Winter Shelter we would lose people, they would die of the cold”.

Based at the Central Baptist Church, Luton, the Shelter opens after NOAH’s evening Soup Kitchen. Those with no accommodation make the short journey along Park Street to bed down in the Church for the night. The Shelter offers facilities many of us take for granted – heating, access to toilets, warm drinks, duvets and sleeping bags. After a secure and comfortable night’s sleep, Shelter residents return to NOAH’s Welfare Centre for a substantial cooked breakfast, shower and clean clothes, and advice from our welfare support team. This marks the beginning of the pathway to recovery for some. NOAH Outreach workers and Welfare staff see the Shelter as an opportunity to engage with men and women who may be traumatised, in poor health, and outside the usual safety net of services that are there to protect vulnerable individuals. NOAH’s Welfare Services Manager, Paul Prosser, says:

“We find that 7 hours safe, uninterrupted sleep makes a huge difference as to how people can approach the following day. Proper rest gives them a much better chance of making long-term changes to improve their circumstances”.

A recent cold winter (2012/13) saw the Shelter open for 102 nights, over which 75 individuals were given a place to sleep. Last year (2015/16), 46 individuals used the Emergency Winter Shelter during a winter which saw lows of -4°C. The busiest night had 30 homeless people sleeping in the Church. This year, with a particularly cold winter forecast by experts, we expect the Shelter to be open for longer. By 8th February 2017 we have been open 29 nights with more to come, given the weather forecast.

Costs of the Shelter are met by NOAH through generous donations from Luton Borough Council, individuals, groups, businesses and charitable trusts. Volunteers provide essential support on a rota system alongside trained NOAH employees. Welfare Centre Supervisor, Phil Crawley, advises,

“We’ve been donated sleeping bags, toiletries and winter essentials packs. We are appealing for donations of snacks, hot drink provisions, and roll mats. If anyone can help during February with these items, it would be massively appreciated”.

Both the Soup Kitchen and Emergency Winter Shelter are traditionally staffed by a combination of trained NOAH workers and volunteers, and this year
is no different. The more assistance we receive, the better the support for the most disadvantaged members of our community.

We would like to thank the Central Baptist Church, Luton Borough Council, other donors, all providers of food, and all volunteers for supporting this important, life-saving project.

If you would like to contribute material items for the Shelter, help with funding, or wish to volunteer, please contact the NOAH team on 01582 728416 or visit our fundraising page