“IT will be lovely – somewhere warm and safe to stay.”
These were the thoughts of one of Newbury’s rough sleepers following the opening of a new homeless night shelter in the town last week.
Volunteers and supporters gathered outside the Salvation Army Hall, in Northcroft Lane, to mark the opening.
A number of those who will be looking to make use of the shelter also gathered as temperatures plummeted on one of the coldest nights of the year.
The service will provide 13 beds for the homeless from December to the end of February.
The shelter was made possible through a campaign from charity West Berkshire Homeless, which raised £18,000, along with the help of local charities, businesses and volunteers.
The founder of West Berkshire Homeless, Cathy Knight, said: “There has been no queues at the door and the atmosphere of community, cards and snoring is a delight to experience.
“We are so grateful to the community of now over 80 volunteers – we just need a few extra night helpers through the winter.”
For the next three months, rough sleepers will be able to spend the night in a bed in the main hall on a first-come first-served basis.
The shelter will be signposted by other local charities and volunteers working with the homeless, such as Loose Ends and Meryl Praill at Newbury Soup Kitchen (also run out of the Salvation Army Hall).
Breakfast of tea and toast is provided in the morning, before the beds are cleared away and hall reverts back to normal use.
The shelter, which has a strict no alcohol or drugs policy, has taken in around nine people a night since it opened.
Lt Andrew Williams of the Salvation Army, which has cancelled much of its evening activities to allow the hall to be used, said there was a definite need for the shelter in Newbury.
“It’s fantastic to see it opened and being used,” he said. “The other day one of our homeless friends came up to me outside the hall and said ‘I just want to thank you and shake you by the hand’.
“It’s just humbling when you get that kind of response.”
Mrs Knight added: “It is of paramount importance to ensure we plan ahead for February so all the engagement isn’t wasted and the desire to house more individuals and keep them off the streets for good will come to fruition.”
For more information or to volunteer at the shelter, email firstname.lastname@example.org