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Hackney Winter Night Shelter calls for volunteers to help run seasonal service for homeless people

Hackney Winter Night Shelter volunteers

Helping out: Hackney Winter Night Shelter volunteers

Hackney Winter Night Shelter is calling on local residents to get involved with their activities this winter to help local people out of homelessness.

“It takes a community to make this happen,” says Shelter manager Christina Ball, and this year the charity is putting out a special request to those in the local area with the skills to help people to rebuild their lives.

“Whether you are a hairdresser, a chiropodist, a dentist you can help take care of the charity’s guests. The shelter is also keen to take on new trustees with links to the local business community.

Hackney Winter Night Shelter accommodated 102 guests in the winter of 2017-2018. Of those, they found more stable housing for 69 people.

This winter the Shelter, which opened its doors on 1 November, will be providing 25 beds this winter to homeless people, as well as food and practical support to help those who use its services to rebuild their lives.

The organisation, which was founded in 1996, takes on guests through referrals from local agencies, specialising in providing support to those who have fallen through the cracks and found themselves unexpectedly without housing.

Christina Ball explains how the Shelter’s services work: “Every homeless man or woman who spends a night in our emergency shelter is treated as a valued guest and made to feel welcome with a hot nourishing meal and a warm bed.

“Our Advocate Workers strive throughout the winter to find alternative, more stable move-on accommodation for each one of them.

“As a small local charity we absolutely could not exist without the support from the Hackney community who help us in so many ways, and which means that we can do much more than we could on our own”.

The project is run from venues across the borough by volunteers from the local community who take part by setting up the beds and tables, cooking meals (dinner and breakfast), welcoming the guests, making the environment comfortable, spending time with guests (eg. chatting, playing cards or dominoes), staying overnight and in the morning serving breakfast and clearing away the venue, and doing the laundry.

Other examples of support from local community include donations of food from local delis and bakers and fund-raising activities by local businesses. Local people also donate things like socks and gloves for guests, and church halls give venues free of charge, a local mosque provides soup one evening a week, and Kehilah synagogue donated its Yom Kippur Appeal to the charity.

Emma Banks

Hackney Winter Night Shelter volunteer coordinator Emma Banks

Volunteer coordinator Emma Banks says: “There’s a strong sense of community in Hackney, and living in Hackney myself, I couldn’t help but want to help the people around me. This is why I chose to volunteer for Hackney Winter Night Shelter.

“Hackney Winter Night Shelter runs on togetherness. The people of Hackney coming together to help the people of Hackney, from volunteers, to local shops, companies, florists, restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, The Brownies, and launderettes. It’s everyone working together, and going above and beyond to make things happen.

“Without this community around the shelter it all wouldn’t be possible. These people are its engine. It really goes to prove that alone we are just one, but together we can do so much”.

Advertising agency Forever Beta has also provided pro bono assistance to the charity, partnering to develop a long-term advertising platform to boost donations, raise awareness and hopefully one day end homelessness.

Forever Beta CEO Robin Gadsby said of the partnership: “No one should be sleeping on the street – we are using our resources at the agency and won’t stop until things change. We don’t just want to help, we want to solve the problem.”

If you would like to raise funds in aid of the work or lend their professional services see the Hackney Winter Night Shelter website for details of how to get involved.

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