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Church of England parishes set to support winter shelters

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Figures published by the Church of England Statistics for Mission 2017 show that over 2000 churches report either running or supporting night shelters in England.

Night shelters supported by churches are reporting increases in capacity with some adding extra beds and others opening for longer during the week. This follows a series of reports this year indicating a rise in homelessness and rough sleeping.

The autumn 2017 total number of rough sleepers counted and estimated was over 4000 according to figures issued by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.  This was an increase of 15% from the previous year.

Last winter, the churches in King’s Lynn started a pilot shelter in response to a rise in rough sleeping in the town. It was open for two nights a week last winter, but is now open for seven nights a week until March and have employed Lucy McKitterick as the new project coordinator.

The shelter is providing places for 20 guests and working in partnership with different agencies. The ecumenical project has received a council grant and is supported by Imagine Norfolk Together, a joint venture between Church Urban Fund and the DioceseMore than 100 volunteers are working with the shelter, drawn from across the town and surrounding villages.

Andrew Frere-Smith, Development Worker for Imagine Norfolk Together, said:

“The shelter has been fantastic at bringing people together from different church denominations in the town as well as people from the wider community.”
The Rt Rev James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester, who is also Chair of the Christian housing charity, Housing Justice, said:

“The reasons why people end up on the streets are complex, with many facing mental ill-health, many having been in care as children, and a good number having been released from prison. 
“Behind the distressing rise in numbers, we must remember that behind each statistic is a person, a human being made in God’s image and thus worthy of dignity.

“I join others in praying that one day such shelters will not be necessary.  But while they are, I give thanks for all those who work tirelessly to serve those who live on our streets or in other unstable settings.  Their work is a valuable reminder to us all of God’s priority for the vulnerable and marginalised and of the value of every human person.”

You can find out more about the work of Imagine Norfolk Together here.