A NEW homeless night shelter in Newbury could provide 13 beds for rough sleepers during the upcoming winter months, providing funding and planning obstacles can be overcome.
Newbury-based charity West Berkshire Homeless (WBH) is aiming to open the shelter from December to February to provide accommodation to those who would otherwise be sleeping on the streets.
However, the charity has been told that to use its preferred site, at the Salvation Army hall in Northcroft Lane, it would need to apply to West Berkshire Council for a ‘change of use’ for the building, while more than £10,000 will have to be raised to be able to open and run the shelter.
Government figures from 2016 estimated the number of rough sleepers in West Berkshire to be around 14, however the true figure is thought to be considerably higher.
The Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) initiative provides limited short-term emergency accommodation for rough sleepers at Two Saints hostel if the temperature drops below freezing.
However, general secretary at WBH, Erica Gassor, said the charity was aiming to provide safe and sustained accommodation for homeless people through the worst months of the winter and was currently exploring its options.
She said: “We are very grateful that the Salvation Army have offered us the use of their hall and are working with us to help the homeless.
“We have been told we have to apply to change the use of the building before we can use it as a shelter, however, we are looking at all options.
“We are looking at what we can do and how we can do it.”
She added: “It’s so essential to get the night shelter up and running.
“The homeless hostel Two Saints is at capacity and so we need to get these people into accommodation.
“No one in this day and age should be sleeping outside in the harshest winter months – it’s inhumane.”
Since its formation at the end of February, WBH has so far helped 12 individuals into permanent accommodation and employment.
However, as the cold weather approaches, the charity says it needs a more immediate solution to get those who are forced to sleep on the streets into a warm bed.
Working with the Salvation Army to use its hall, WBH is looking at providing the beds each night and offering tea, coffee and sandwiches, as well as breakfast in the mornings on the days when Loose Ends is not open for a morning meal.
However, Mrs Gassor said the charity needs more than £10,000 as well as a team of volunteers to open and run the shelter between December and February.
She said: “We are appealing for help with funding as well as volunteers to help run the shelter for three months.
“WBH would also be very interested to hear from potential landlords and employers who would like to work with them in this scheme.”
Anyone who is interested can email Erica.firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07799 492235.
West Berkshire Council spokeswoman Peta Stoddart-Crompton said the council had not been approached regarding the use of the Salvation Army hall as a night shelter and would be happy to discuss options with the charity.