As a church, we have now ran a Winter Shelter, for four weeks over Christmas 2006, 2007, continuing every year since 2009, so that about 15 homeless people would have a warm, safe church hall to sleep in during the harshest time of the year.
The project was the idea and initiative of Gerard Goshawk, our student minister with Northern Baptist College, who was on placement with Thomas Helwys Baptist Church for the past four years. As well as ministerial training, Gerard works for two days a week with homeless people in Nottingham, so he was able to bring his knowledge of the issue to this project.
At first, the plan had been to facilitate a shelter somewhere in Nottingham, but as time went on, it became increasingly clear that the best place to host the project was within the church itself.
This is now the third time as a church we have taken part in this kind of endeavour, and each time we think it has been a truly positive experience, with so much to learn along the way.
Gerard said: “This has been an exciting opportunity for us to do something really practical for those people who are the poorest and most excluded in this city. The winter shelter has felt like a really good place for people to be and the atmosphere has been friendly and receptive. It’s been hard work but it’s been great to see that what we have done has really made a difference in people’s lives”.
We’ve secured funding from several sources, including a generous grant from the Baptist Union’s Against The Stream Fund. This enabled us to purchase beds, bedding, food and everything else that was needed, as well as paying for experienced workers to staff the project each night. Teams of volunteers from the local churches and community were on duty each morning and evening, to serve refreshments and befriend the service-users.
As a church, it is an ongoing challenge to us to decide what the next step is, and engage with the local Council on the needs of homeless people.
Listen to a broadcast from Radio Nottingham on the project (January 2007)