Vicar's Letter - 17.11

     Vicar’s Letter – Helping the Homeless

I’d like to share with you another good news story this month about people getting on with helping others. It concerns a new project that is starting in the churches on the Waterside and based in Hythe. The idea is to provide shelter for the homeless through the worst of the winter months and then to actively seek to link those people with support that will change their lives.
There is little doubt that for many reasons the problem of homelessness is getting worse in our country. Around 150 families are made homeless in Britain every day. Of these nearly all are given emergency accommodation but some individuals slip through the net.
This project seeks to help those who are sleeping rough and have nowhere to go. Once people end up sleeping rough, it can be extremely difficult to gain access to housing: they cannot work or claim benefits as they have no fixed address and they don’t have the identification documents to enter the system.
Homelessness affects a whole range of people with different backgrounds and problems that bring them to this place none of us would ever want to be. Whilst there are hostels in Bournemouth and Southampton these can be hard to get into at times. The idea of this project is to supply shelter at night and then to arrange meetings with those who can provide long term help the following day. Only those who engage with the support agencies will be allowed to continue to stay in the Night Shelter beds.
The project will be launched this winter with four churches taking part and offering space for six people. Each guest will be given an evening meal, a warm bed and breakfast the following morning. This will be followed by an appointment with a support worker. The Night Shelter will move between the churches with volunteers staying with the guests each night and then making sure that they are ok as they leave in the morning.
This Night Shelter has been two years in the planning. There have been many meetings with the local authorities and councils. It will rely entirely on volunteers who will feed and look after the guests as well as collecting up all the bedding to move it to where it is needed and making sure it is kept clean.
Once again this is a sign that good people working together can make a difference. Our society is made stronger when we seek to support one another. We must not give in to apathy and cynicism but get on with doing what we can. Who knows it might be us, or our relatives, who need help one day.

May the God of love watch over us all and give us hope.            Neil

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