For me, it will be my fourth season as a CWNS manager … I am talking about the Southend Church Winter Night Shelter project that runs for every night for 17 weeks in the worse months weather wise. There are 7 churches involved, each taking a set night and each providing hospitality: overnight accommodation, evening meal and breakfast, for up to (and sometimes more than) 20 guests plus a few who may call in just for the meal.
I confess to some trepidation, not so much having to deal with Rough Sleepers (that is the one aspect I am fairly comfortable with, notwithstanding challenges dealing with folk living on the streets with their various issues) but with some of the physical and mental demands and in getting an operation going that is tickety boo, with all the organizational logistics nailed, what we need in place and all the slots for volunteers coming on board at the appropriate times for set tasks covered. A lot has already been done to meet the challenge: fund raising, meetings, training, organizing, getting stuff ready, to make sure we are ready to hit the ground running on 2nd December.
I am touched by the support I get from all quarters and often from those not from my theological stable and some with no theology at all, coming from all sectors of our diverse community and outlooks on life, recognizing we are coming together to make a difference in the lives of those who would otherwise be sleeping rough on the streets. That we do make a difference is evidenced by the fact that it is onward and upward for many of them at the end of the season, because they do find accommodation and are put back on their feet. But for some it is just a temporary respite as they then later find themselves homeless again and some of the issues that caused them to be homeless in the first place have not been dealt with. But we can only do so much (and we rely on our partners, like our local council and the homeless charity HARP to do what we can’t do), but the needs are many and it is possible for us to make a real difference.
My next action is to do the rotas, hoping I can fill in the overnight sleeper, evening meal cooker and early morning slots, in that order, tie up final bits and pieces and then in less than a fortnight I know, broadly at least, what I will be doing, from mid afternoon Friday until mid morning the next day, for the next 17 weeks. If any reading this is interested in helping at mine or one of the other shelters, I would love to hear from you. While it may take you out of your comfort zone, it can be an amazing experience too.
Important: check out here for what is involved: ferndale-volunteer-guidance-1617