Hackney Winter Night Shelter seeks permanent home to support rough sleepers

Hackney Winter Night Shelter ready for guests. (Photograph: Paul Driver)
One of Hackney Winter Night Shelter’s previous set-ups. Photograph: Paul Driver

Hackney Winter Night Shelter (HWNS) is looking for a new permanent home, having spent well over two decades running roving shelters supporting homeless people and rough sleepers.

All communal night shelters have had to remain closed during the coronavirus pandemic, with the borough’s housing chief Cllr Rebecca Rennison recently saying that the council is seeking solutions for its own provision for the winter months.

Now the charity Hackney Doorways is set to adapt its own model to better meet the needs of those who require night shelters, accelerating recently agreed plans for a permanent year-round shelter to secure a property that can be made Covid-secure for all who use it.

The charity’s director, Christina Ball, said: “One of HWNS’ greatest strengths has always been the involvement of the community and the charity will continue to work with its large network of churches, faith organisations, schools and community groups to realise our ambition much more quickly than we had originally planned.

“We will also work alongside our volunteers to make sure that our new venture is safe and welcoming for those who need our help, both now and in the future.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the people of Hackney so that future guests will experience the same kindness, generosity and hospitality for which HWNS is renowned.”

Anyone with an empty property suitable for up to 15 people, or a large four- to five-bedroom house that could accommodate seven or eight people, is now being urged to contact HWNS.

Ideally, each guest would have their own room or would stay in a much smaller shared space, with the ability to be able to self-isolate if necessary.

Ball added: “These are uncertain times for everyone, and it is a pivotal time for us, but as a charity we want to make sure that we can continue to help those who are often at their most vulnerable.”

Hackney Doorways has been operating a women’s shelter pilot project at a large house in the borough for the past year.

The project, part-funded by the Mayor of London’s Rough Sleeping Innovation Fund, has been a “great success”, according to the charity, with participants showing improvements in health and wellbeing, as well as being able to secure more stable housing and, for many, a transition out of homelessness.

The shelter remained open for 24 hours a day during lockdown and kept five women safe, despite the staffing power of volunteers being “greatly reduced” during the crisis.

The women’s shelter is set to return to more normal operation shortly, with Hackney Doorways now seeking funding to make sure that this specialist service can continue beyond its initial year.

Those who can help HWNS with an empty property are asked to contact Ruth Best, shelter manager, on manager@hwns.org.uk