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Newbury homeless shelter to open tomorrow (Friday)

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“It started out as a dream in February and now it’s become a reality.”

A NEW night shelter for the homeless in Newbury is set to open its doors tomorrow evening (Friday).

The shelter at the Salvation Army hall in Northcroft Lane will provide a safe place for rough sleepers to lay their head during the harsh winter months from December to February.

The opening signals a victory for charity West Berkshire Homeless in its race to secure funding and a building, as well as a team of dedicated volunteers, before the worst of the cold weather.

Having only formed in February this year, the charity has since been working to help get rough sleepers off the streets, while, in the summer, plans evolved to establish the winter night shelter.

More than £25,000 has been raised so far, with £18,000 of that in the last few weeks alone, specifically for the shelter.

General secretary Erica Gassor said: “It’s really exciting.

“We are delighted to have achieved it in time through the dedicated work of the trustees, who have all worked so hard to make sure this can happen.

“We will be welcoming users from around seven o’clock tomorrow who will then be registered and we’ll go through the operating regulations.

“We’ve got no idea how many will come along on the first evening so it’s bit nerve-racking, but very exciting.”

Having started through a call in the Newbury Weekly News for the community to “unite to help the homeless” in February, the charity has now successfully helped 12 individuals off the streets and into permanent accommodation and employment.

Mrs Gassor added: “It started out as a dream in February and now it’s become a reality.”

A number of local organisations, including local churches, homeless charity Loose Ends and the Salvation Army, have worked with West Berkshire Homeless to ensure the shelter was ready.

Loose Ends chairwoman Pam Hayden, who will be volunteering at the shelter, said her charity, which offers help, support and meals to the homeless, will also be signposting its users to the new service.

“Everybody has worked extremely hard to get this night shelter open and we hope it will be a success,” she said.

The charity has recruited two full-time night managers and a team of volunteers to help run the service for three months.

However, founder Cathy Knight said the charity’s work would not stop here.

Mrs Knight said: “We can continue to work to crack this problem. My expectation is zero tolerance to poverty and homelessness in this area and across the country.

“No one should be going hungry or not have a safe place to sleep. It’s been amazing how many people have supported us through donations, or just giving their time, but we must not stop now.”

Users will be able to attend the shelter from 7pm tomorrow (Friday) to register.

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