Volunteering at St. Helen’s church winter night shelter

This morning (from 0345) I embarked on my first proper shift this season at a church winter night shelter – at St Helen’s church. All was peaceful, at least for the next two hours when I even managed some serious reading – since all the guests, including some old friends, were fast asleep. I was the one man to volunteer for that shift, along with three ladies, and it is lovely to be the newbie, under orders and NOT in charge. The “Shelter” was, unsurprisingly, more than full (I reckon at least 25 guests given the 20 official maximum), demonstrating there still is a need in Southend. Kudos to Daniel, the Shelter manager, and the wonderful volunteer cohort for making available this well-run operation. As is often the case, there are stories behind the story e.g. the two guys sleeping outside under the porch and so much else that has gone on in the season I did not know about – but that is ok – it was just great to be back again!

As many of the folk who know me will know, I have been managing one of the church winter night shelters these past five years, but this year I decided to take a break, partly because of health reasons and partly because the shelter I was managing (Ferndale) is this year undergoing some building work. It was great that St. Helen’s was able to take over the Ferndale “slot” and I could help in making that transition, and it was nice that some of last year’s Ferndale CWNS volunteers have become this year’s St. Helen’s volunteers, working well along with members of the church. But like so much in life – one has to step down at some time and others then take over, and one then moves on – wishing one’s successors all the best. I really enjoyed my chats with the volunteers and some of the guests, some I have known for some time, and generally mucking in. If I were to be picky, there may be minor areas for improvement, but given it is their first year, St. H. CWNS was great – especially the organisation with compassion bit. In so many ways, the St. Helen’s operation is better than the one I managed – and that has to be a good thing 🙂


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