King’s Lynn churches plan to launch night shelter
With rising levels of homelessness in King’s Lynn, a public meeting was held on June 28 where it was announced that King's Lynn Churches Together, in partnership with the Purfleet Trust and Imagine Norfolk Together, will pilot a winter night shelter from October 2017.
On Wednesday, June 28 a public meeting was held at London Road Methodist Church in King’s Lynn to discuss issues of homelessness in the town, with speakers from organisations involved in serving homeless people across Norfolk.
The meeting was organised by Andrew Frere-Smith (pictured above), the Development Worker for Imagine Norfolk Together, a joint initiative between the Church Urban Fund and the Diocese of Norwich. Andrew opened the meeting with a Gospel reading from Matthew 25.
Darryl Smith, Operations Director for the YMCA then spoke to the meeting about the work of the YMCA in King’s Lynn. The number of beds in the YMCA hostel in King’s Lynn has increased from 9 to 15 over the past year. Clients are referred from many agencies and there have been 126 referrals since April 2016. Clients pay rent for a bed, food and support. They develop skills and are then moved on to shared accommodation and eventually a job. Although not all the staff are Christian, the fundamental vision of the YMCA is Christian, and this ethos allows clients to make mistakes and move forward.
Darryl gave an overview of homelessness in King’s Lynn and its impact. The number of rough sleepers on the streets in King’s Lynn rose to 42 in December 2016 compared to 5 in 2015. She said: “Homelessness has a huge impact on a person’s life, and statistics show an increased chance of ending up in A&E, street drinking, prostitution, arrest and conviction or rough sleeping. The average age of death is 47 years. It is estimated that this costs the UK £1 billion per year. Young homeless people are difficult to count because they tend to sleep on friends' sofas.”
The causes of homelessness include behaviour and relationship problems, mental health issues, a recent stay in prison or a change in benefits or employment. Darryl explained that benefits pay £67 per week for shared accommodation and £92 per week for single accommodation; however YMCA rental room rates are closer to £200 per week. Furthermore the government is reducing financial support for sheltered housing and housing charities causing a further reduction in beds available.
Susan Carne (pictured right), Project Co-ordinator for Community Chaplaincy in Norwich was next to address the meeting. Susan spoke about her work with prisoners, many of whom dread the day of release from prison because they have no job and no home to go to. Susan explained that prisoners are often released on a Friday when there will be no care services over the weekend and the prisoner is given just £46 and the clothes they are standing up in.
Susan co-ordinates a mentoring service for ex-offenders so that volunteers can support them while they rebuild their lives. Susan has found that the hardest problem is accommodation. She spoke about Hope into Action, a Christian charity that has 5 houses in Norwich bought with the help of Christian investors, and which supports residents with help from local church members. Susan also talked about The Welcome Directory, another charity which helps churches to welcome ex-offenders.
Susan is looking for volunteers to provide mentoring services in the King’s Lynn area. Susan would provide training for these volunteers. One church in Norwich is providing a mentoring package for 10 ex-offenders.
Paula Hall, CEO of the Purfleet Trust, spoke next. She said: “The trust deals with about 80 people per day and most are single homeless people. The staff assess the needs of the clients when they first arrive and subsequently the clients can use the facilities which include showers, a laundry, hot food and refreshments, signposting to services and social interaction. The staff make the clients feel welcome and they may be the only people that the client has spoken to for some days. The Purfleet Trust can act as a postal address for a homeless person many of whom have complex needs and problems.”
Paula talked about how finding accommodation for clients has been really challenging, especially because recent changes and the capping of benefits has made landlords reluctant to accept homeless tenants. She said: “Benefits provide £50-60 per week and you will not find a room in King’s Lynn for that price.”
Andrew Frere- Smith concluded the meeting. Through discussions with the Purfleet Trust, Andrew has initiated the plan to run a night shelter with Churches Together in King’s Lynn as a pilot project starting in October. The night shelter will open two nights per week, Friday and Saturday from 5pm to 8am. The project will have one paid co-ordinator and will require about 60 volunteers from local churches. There will be 3 volunteers working at any time changing in 3 shifts 5pm-11pm, 11pm-6am and 6am-8am for breakfast.
If you would like to volunteer or obtain further information about the planned night shelter please contact Andrew on 07949 964932 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article is based on notes from the meeting taken by Peter Coates, Secretary of Churches Together in King’s Lynn.
The main photo of Andrew Frere-Smith was taken in September 2016 at the Churches Together in King's Lynn AGM