The first Housing Justice National Night Shelter Conference on 1 November has addressed the key opportunities and challenges facing church and community night shelters in a rapidly-shifting environment.
Meeting in London, 162 staff and volunteers from 64 night shelters across England and Wales tackled key issues of providing excellent care for guests at night shelters, means of preventing people from leaving their homes, and successful practice in moving people on to stable and secure homes.
Across England and Wales, 145 night shelters provide around 2,000 beds nightly.
Opening the day, Bishop of Edmonton and chair of Housing Justice the Rt Revd Rob Wickham noted the dedication and passion that night shelter staff and volunteers bring to their work. “It’s hard work. Thank you for caring, thank you for showing kindness”.
Presentations and break out groups included a survey of the policy landscape, innovation in the night shelter environment, building effective partnerships, and dealing with the specific needs of immigrants.
It is the first time that night shelter coordinators have had an opportunity to share expertise and learn from others’ experiences, teasing out issues such as sharing and using data, severe weather emergency protocols, and mitigating risks, and managing referral procedures.
A key issue through the energetic debate and searching questions was the value of partnership – with statutory agencies, other voluntary organisations in the field.
Many delegates had never before fully appreciated the extent of the night shelter network in England and Wales, nor the energy, commitment and creativity among church and community night shelters.