Once again, some churches, supported by members of the community, are looking forward to running its night shelter program from late November, for four months, with the intention every night is covered (although there are some gaps still) as there will be a shelter held in each of the participating churches on the same night each week for that whole period. I blogged about what went on last season e.g. see here for some of my thoughts.
While the start date seems a long way off, experience shows it comes around all too soon and, realistically and given we are in it to win it, we need to start preparing now. For me personally, I am committed to manage one of the shelters (this one at Ferndale Baptist church) and while there is not much going on right now some things need to happen soon. The first thing is to gather a team of volunteers to assist, and I will be letting those who volunteered in the past know what is being intended and invite them to sign up again. I will also be looking to recruit new volunteers. Folk sleeping overnight, those coming in early mornings to clear up etc. and cooks for the evening meal (and also breakfast) are always at a premium but, such is the nature of what we do, most contributions are welcome. What is required is people who are willing to serve and who can empathise with our guests, who if they were not staying with us would likely be otherwise sleeping on the streets. Realistically, we are unable to solve many of their issues, the main one being a lack of suitable accommodation, but we can always make a difference.
In the coming week I will be meeting with the minister of the church that hosts our operation and my practically minded deputy, in order to thrash out practical details around the use of the building etc. I also want to set some dates. The first is for a fund raising meal at the church, likely in October. Besides an opportunity to meet interested friends it will be a chance to start raising money. At this time our account holds ZERO funds and we need at least £1000 for a viable operation for the four month season. The second is for a training evening. The reality for any volunteer that signs up is the need to hit the ground running and to be up for anything. While certain things it is impossible to prepare for, given the nature of some of our guests, there is no excuse for not preparing the best we can, understanding what exactly we are offering, knowing what is needed and being able to cope – thus the need for training. Experience has taught me the need for flexibility and adaptability, and I also need to organize rotas and logistics before we start late November.
For those who read the local newspaper, people sleeping rough has become a widely reported subject and with a variety of views being expressed. The fact of the matter is that there exists in our town a significant number (no one knows precisely how many) of rough sleepers. There is a lot we cannot do and that we must leave to others, despite sometimes a sense of unease they don’t always do things as well as they should, but we can do something. Last year, one of our volunteers with a dark sense of humour commented that at least no one died. By that he meant (I think) although sleeping 20 guests, many with issues, had its challenging moments, we were able to carry on operations with a degree of success. We fed them; we gave them a bed (or rather sleeping bag) for the night; we gave them things they needed; we signposted them to further help; we operated a safe environment; we showed human kindness. Many who came expressed their gratitude. I hope we can do the same again this year and even better as we should now be smarter, and with your help.
Dates for your diary:
Friday 23rd October 2015 – 1900 – 2200: Fund raising meal
Friday 13th November 2015 – 1900 – 2100: Ferndale Volunteer training evening
Friday 27th November 2015 – 1830 – 0900 (next day) Ferndale CWNS commences and thereafter until 18th March 2016
There will be at least one other training session (details tba but 3rd November evening is intended) for all the volunteers covering all the night shelters.
I have met with some of the relevant players regarding practical arrangements and am contacting all those who have expressed an interest that I have email details for. Sometimes it is about keeping balls up in the air and not allowing them to fall to the ground, thus ensuring critical path issues are dealt with. It is likely after today I may not be doing much more until mid September.