Night Shelter Practicalities (5)

*** Important info. for Ferndale CWNS volunteers ***

The following is the fifth in this series of “helpful notes” aimed at those volunteering or thinking of doing so for the Ferndale Church Winter Night Shelter (CWNS), which operates 1830 – 0830 every Friday/Saturday from December to March – for the previous four, click on one, two, three and four. Other than omitting specific detail not appropriate for the public domain, the following is based on useful things volunteers need to know, based on our experience of four sessions so far. Given guests have been kept safe and have appreciated what we have provided and volunteers have appreciated the opportunity to serve in this way, it can be said we have been successful to date, but this is not a time to rest on our laurels and there are always lessons to be learned and room for improvement.


  1. Please note the time and dates for your duties.
  2. Please keep to the times you are meant to be on unless otherwise agreed (e.g. arrive late or leave early).
  3. If you are unable to attend a duty then please let me know with as much notice as possible.
  4. It is intended that myself or one the deputy managers will be cover all times and be overall responsible throughout the whole period that the night shelter is running. If there is anything you are not sure of, or you need help with, then speak to him/her.
  5. We are constrained by limited space: one large room where guests eat and sleep, 3 toilets with washbasins only and one kitchen (for volunteers only) and it means we need to manage this space smartly and tidily. Unless you are helping in cooking, serving, clearing up and washing up, try to keep out of the kitchen when all this is going on. Do become familiar with the layout of the building e.g. exits and emergency exits, and location of toilets.
  6. The people who come to us should be treated as honoured guests but also you should not expect to suffer abuse (if you are uncomfortable at any time, speak to the duty manager). Be aware many of our guests are particularly vulnerable so special vigilance is always needed. Remember that your job is to provide / facilitate hospitality and NOT to be their “case worker”.
  7. Only guests referred to us by HARP are to be allowed in, but only when we are open (around 1915) and having first “signed in”, and not being under the influence of alcohol or drugs or behaving unsocially. Anyone not meeting this criteria needs to be referred to the duty manager, who may exercise discretion and allow self referrals etc. if there is room. Note: during the course of the preceding week a lot of information will have been gathered about those who do turn up, informing any decision made.
  8. When you arrive for your duty, you will be assigned tasks (see below). Over and above performing your tasks as best you can, help out where you see a need and talk to the guests.
  9. You are part of the team and the overall aim is to give guests and fellow volunteers a good experience and aim to leave the building and contents in as good state (clean and tidy) as when we started. We must respect the church and our neighbours. As with many teams there will be a wide mix of skills and interests as well as backgrounds and beliefs. We need to harmonise all this!
  10. As and when convenient, there will be team briefings when we go over things about what is happening, information about the guests etc. that the team need to know about.

The evening shift (1830 – 2200)

The following needs to be done during this period. You will be involved in one or more of the following activities:

  1. Duty manager and kitchen staff to turn up at 1800. Open building (doors unlocked) and check ok, Open gate to the car park, heating is on, kitchen is tidy, crockery and cutlery laid out, oven and urns are turned on, items like milk put in the fridge.
  2. Unless otherwise agreed, the duty manager will ensure beforehand we have sufficient tea, coffee, milk and fruit squash, as well as the necessary ingredients for a continental breakfast (we may agree to do a cook breakfast).
  3. The duty cook will prepare the evening meal along with assistant(s). He/she will be responsible for bringing the necessary ingredients for the evening meal. It is aimed to eat around 2000 but no later than 2030. We aim to serve up to 30 guests and volunteers. We cater for up to 20 overnight guests and there will likely be some who come for the meal only,
  4. Tables and chairs will be set out for eating, as well as for refreshments and registration. Tables will be laid in preparedness for the evening meal.
  5. Check toilets are ok and do so periodically during the course of the evening.
  6. Bedding will be taken from the designated cupboard in the hall (we also can store upstairs), ready to be distributed later in the evening – one sleeping mat, one sleeping bag, one pillow with pillow slip. Those who were with us on previous occasions will have their own sleeping gear in a pink bag and labelled. In exceptional cases we allow guests to sleep at the back of the hall before the meal. However, we aim to give out (not guests to take at will) bedding only when the meal is finished and in order to save confusion etc.
  7. Lay out the refreshment table with made up tea / coffee etc., biscuits and cups – while we operate a self-service, one person to remain by the table to assist guests, replenish supplies when needed and to keep tidy.
  8. Guests to be ushered in one at the time in order to be registered.
  9. Paper work needs checking and completing and if absent needs to be raised (check with the duty manager).
  10. Guests need to be made to feel welcomed, explained what is available (if new) and invited to help themselves to refreshments, find a seat and a place to put belongings etc.
  11. At the time when the evening meal is ready, we sit down and eat together (guests and volunteers) and meals will be served.
  12. Help is needed serving meals, clearing up, washing up, tidying up.
  13. After dinner, tables and chairs need to be put away along with any tidying up that can be done.
  14. Sleeping gear is handed out and guests invited / guided to find a place to sleep.
  15. Assist guests and make sure they are comfortable – some evening activities e.g. games and/or DVA may be available depending on interest.

The overnight shift (2200 – 0600)

The duties of the overnight team may be light if no incident – we hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Duties involve:

  1. Help guests to settle, rendering assistance as appropriate.
  2. Encourage guests to go outside for a final smoke etc. by 2230.
  3. Put out a jug of water and cups in case needed in the night.
  4. Lights out at 2300 – guests to be reminded they are not allowed to return if they leave the building between 2300 and 0600.
  5. During that time volunteers may sleep but at least one should be awake in case there is an incident or assistance is needed.

The morning shift (0600 – 0830)

The following needs to be done during this period. You will be involved in one or more of the following activities:

  1. Start to prepare breakfast – turn urn and oven on, get necessary ingredients to lay out on refreshment table (guests help themselves).
  2. Guests to be woken at 0630 – gently.
  3. Encourage guests to put bedding in pink bags which will be labelled and have wash etc.
  4. Check toilets are ok and do so periodically during the course of the morning.
  5. Put out tables and chairs ready for breakfast to be served by 0700.
  6. Tidy up following breakfast, including putting away tables and chairs – but note some tables to be left out as this will be used by a group using the hall later in the morning,
  7. Continue to encourage and assist guests and with the aim they leave by 0800 at the latest.
  8. Do a final clean up for the entire premises, including using brooms, mops and buckets.
  9. Ensure kitchen spick and span, empty urns and kettles, turn oven off, check fridge, ensure that all washing up completed and everything is returned to its proper place.
  10. Place rubbish in bins and collect dirty towels and soiled bedding so these may be washed, take away, dispose of or put in fridge perishable items. Put in cupboard other items e.g. cereals / jams if using in future weeks.
  11. Final debriefing before leaving at 0830.
  12. (Last person out – usually duty manager) ensure lights out, heating off etc., place locked up and guest log book is up to date and ready to be handed over to the next shelter. The duty manager will arrange for the log book to be sent to next destination and email CWNS report of the session, referencing guests etc., to CWNS distribution.

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