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Winchester Churches Nightshelter has 17 beds and is open 365 days a year offering an essential lifeline and first port of call to those in crisis. We provide high quality accommodation and food, a safe and caring temporary home, and specialist support to restore self-esteem, develop skills, and support people into longer-term accommodation and independent living.
We offer one-to-one advocacy support and advice, computer training, help with budgeting and finances, practical aid with food and nutrition, guidance for anyone with substance misuse problems, and counselling. Our aim is to enable people to rebuild their lives and escape homelessness for good.
The Nightshelter now includes a permanent staff of eleven (eight full-time and three part-time staff). The staff team receives vital support from many volunteers, who are crucial to the opening and safe operation of the Nightshelter. As well as cooking, cleaning, helping in the evening, or staying overnight, many of our volunteers offer their professional services too, such as hairdressing, counselling and acupuncture. Without them, the Nightshelter simply would not be able to open.
Our funding comes from roughly three different sources; around a third from Supporting People (the central government fund for housing vulnerable people), around a third from Housing Benefit and resident payments, and the final third from donations and gift aid.
We also receive vital support from the local community via the many groups (churches, schools, businesses and more) and individuals who regularly donate not only funds, but also food, clothes and other essential items.
On average per year, the Nightshelter saves around £19,000 through the food donations we receive, around £2,000 on donated cleaning products, and an enormous £55,000 through all the volunteer hours that are donated to us. We are frequently amazed by people’s generosity, and could not help as many homeless people as we do without it.
We may be somewhat biased, but the Nightshelter staff and directors of the project believe that Winchester Churches Nightshelter is one of the best facilities of its kind anywhere in the British Isles. Many of our guests say the same too - and they have been to the others!
It has always been the policy of the Nightshelter to provide an evening meal, hot and cold drinks, a bed, clothing, toiletries and friendship. However, as the charity has developed, our services now include access to ‘floating support’ and a wide and ever-expanding range of additional vital support services.
Our current services include one-to-one advocacy support and advice, computer training, help with budgeting and finances, practical aid with food and nutrition, including cooking workshops, guidance for anyone with substance misuse problems, counselling, and even acupuncture.
The needs of our residents are always changing and our view is that, where we identify a gap in the support we offer our residents, we will try and meet it in as cost-effective a way as possible.
The Nightshelter, founded by Churches Together in Winchester, began to serve the needs of the homeless in 1988. This charity group, run by voluntary effort, utilised various buildings around the city, including church halls and temporarily vacant properties. This led to short-term accommodation being provided. In 1995 the organisation became a registered charity and we moved into our dedicated premises on Jewry Street in central Winchester in 1997. It originally provided 15 beds, but following a successful fundraising drive in 2011, the Nightshelter expanded to offer 17 beds.
The building, belonging to Hampshire County Council, was previously used as a Victorian gasworks, a bakery, a co-operative dairy, a printing works and finally a library store. The Winchester and District Housing Association agreed to develop the site, in a joint venture, to provide a shelter for the homeless on the ground floor and ten low cost studio flats above. The Nightshelter was officially opened on the 14 September 1997 by the Rev Paul Hills, a local Baptist minister.