Coventry Winter Night Shelter
Coventry Winter Night Shelter is a life-changing project that helps people living on the streets to cope during the winter nights whilst also helping them to move off the streets. Homelessness is an acute problem in Coventry and across the country. 5 years ago, a pilot project was launched to try and help solve the problem, and so Coventry Winter Night Shelter was born.
What is Coventry Winter Night Shelter?
Coventry Winter Night Shelter (CWNS) is a project run by Coventry Churches around the city, which provides rough sleepers with support, a hot meal, a safe and warm bed for the night and breakfast the next day. The project runs from 1st December – 31st March every year.
Homelessness can affect anybody regardless of their nationality, religion, race, sexuality, age or gender. Most of the problem is hidden, and the statistics do not reflect ‘sofa surfing’ or families in B&Bs. The numbers of people who are homeless are growing quickly.
Those who find themselves street homeless are particularly vulnerable, especially in winter. Most will have complex stories and will be used to hearing things like ‘you don’t fit the criteria, so we can’t help you’. At CWNS, people sleeping rough will find a warm place that welcomes them and keeps them off the streets for the night, no matter their circumstances. Beyond ensuring that guests will not compromise anyone’s safety, CWNS do not set criteria for using the shelter. We have a referral system in place with background checks to ensure that guests will not be a threat to others. We take any kind of verbal abuse and violence very seriously and strive to make all the volunteers feel safe and comfortable.
Every year we collaborate with churches spread around the city to host the shelters. They are there every day to look after 20 guests, 7 days a week. Our aim is to provide guests with the service they need and the dignity they deserve. Each venue is different, but they all offer a hot meal, a place to socialise, toilets, a sleeping area, and a shower room in some venues.
We rely upon the generous support of local organisations, churches and individuals, who give in so many ways. We liaise with different partner agencies that support the homeless across the city, working with the Salvation Army, Jesus Centre, Crisis, Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre, and others. Food is provided by organisations such as Midland Langar Seva and Tesco, as well as dedicated teams of volunteers who provide a warm, homemade meal.
A normal evening at CWNS
Nights are divided into three shifts:
Evening Shift (6.30pm-10pm): Volunteers prepare the venue. They will start cooking or re-heating the food for the evening, set out the tables and chairs, prepare the camp beds, and check that everything is in order for the night. During the shift, guests arrive, make themselves comfortable, and enjoy a warm meal. It is a time to enjoy, socialise, and to play some board games. Guests love to chat to volunteers, and enjoy being treated with compassion.
Night shift (9.30pm-7am): Normally the guests are asleep, but there need to be at least three volunteers taking it in turns to care for them and deal with any issues. Volunteers can also sleep for a couple of hours in turns if they need to. Sometimes volunteers arrange between themselves to cover the shift in two turns.
Morning shift (6.30am until 9am on the following morning): The guests get up and have a warm breakfast. Volunteers pack up the beds and serve breakfast, guests gather their belongings, and volunteers help clean the premises – all before 9am! And then it’s time to get ready for the night at the next venue!
You can always contact the project coordinators to learn more about the project, to enquire about donating to the project or if you have any other questions:
Bernardo Cañas: firstname.lastname@example.org, 07450 693897
Helen Needham: email@example.com, 07713 340065