The Merton Winter Night Shelter is back on Monday 27 November and is now in it’s seventh year, operating with various faith groups in the area. It is lead by YMCA London South West (LSW) and supported by Wimbledon Foundation and Merton Council.
The shelter has capacity for 12 guests each night and runs until early March 2018.
The YMCA LSW Project Coordinator at YMCA Wimbledon allocates places at the Winter Night Shelter to those people who are either referred by partner agencies or who have self-referred. For the first time this year, YMCA LSW will be operating an online referral system (available on the YMCA LSW website). Those guests who have a place at the shelter must attend everyday otherwise their place will be given to the next person on the waiting list. Many people are referred via the Merton Faith in Action Homeless Project.
Beds are set up at the venues where the guests are also provided with a hot dinner, and depending on the venue, a shower too. Set-ups vary from venue to venue, depending on space.
“We have seen an increase in the numbers of homeless people in the area this year, particularly around Wimbledon town centre, so the Winter Night Shelter is more important than ever to provide a safe, warm, welcoming place on the coldest nights,” says YMCA Area Director, Rebecca Stockman.
Key to the operation are the fantastic volunteers who work on a rota basis from around 6pm throughout the night to provide a hot evening meal, beds, advice, support and breakfasts.
Volunteer Brenda, at St Winefride’s Church, one of the faith venues participating in the scheme
“I’ve been involved since the start and co-ordinate the volunteers. We’re all parishioners at St Winefride’s church and many of us are mums from the local school, St Mary’s. We recruit volunteers via word of mouth, and lots of people are willing to help. We have a bank of about 30 volunteers, and seven of them are on the rota to cook food at home and bring it in to the shelter.”
Guest Dave, aged 57, attended the Winter Night Shelter last year and had this to say:
“The food is good and they sort me out as I have a few food intolerances. Originally I’m from Oxford, but have recently been living in Essex and Croydon. Although I’m rough sleeping, I don’t find it hard to keep myself clean, there’s always somewhere to go to have a strip wash and I have a shower at Faith In Action’s drop-in.”