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Night shelter for district's homeless set to open this month

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The shelter on West Street will accommodate up to 20 individuals

A FORMER Newbury snooker club will be transformed into a night shelter for rough sleepers across the district from the end of the month.

West Berkshire Homeless will run the shelter, located at 1 West Street.

The shelter, which will operate between the hours of 6pm and 8am, will accommodate up to 20 individuals, with separate washing, showering, toileting and sleeping areas for men and women, and will serve light meals.

It will also provide the charity with office space to assist homeless people on a one-to-one basis and a secure storage area for clients’ personal possessions.

It is hoped that the shelter will operate until the end of April.

It is the second time in as many years that West Berkshire Homeless, established in February 2017, has operated a night shelter for the district’s homeless community.

The charity provided a lifeline to many rough sleepers when it opened one at the Salvation Army hall, in Northcroft Lane, in December 2017. It closed in early March 2018.

During that time, 13 beds were provided for 92 consecutive nights and 48 homeless people registered for the service.

The announcement of this year’s new shelter comes despite West Berkshire Council activating its Severe Weather Emergency Protocol, (SWEP) for a prolonged period of time.

The protocol, which was activated on November 1 last year, ensures the district’s most vulnerable residents with a local connection are given the support they need throughout periods of cold or extreme weather – including accommodation at the Two Saints hostel on Newtown Road.

There are currently an estimated 25 people sleeping rough in various places in and around Newbury, although the true number is thought to be much higher.

Healthwatch West Berkshire’s Homeless and Rough Sleepers Report 2018, published in February last year, found that there had been an “unprecedented rise” in the number of people sleeping rough in the district.

It said that the official figures, which predicted that there were around 20 people sleeping rough in West Berkshire, were “a major underestimation”.

The West Street building is now in the process of being refurbished to make it suitable for use as temporary accommodation for rough sleepers.

West Berkshire Homeless said in a statement: “West Berkshire Homeless are committed to develop strategies in-line with our written aims and objectives to alleviate homelessness in the Newbury area.

“We will continue to work alongside both statutory and non-statutory organisations where possible.

“However, at this time we believe that we have to act unilaterally by providing a night shelter as we cannot humanely ignore the need for additional facilities to cater for the rough sleeping community in the Newbury area during the harshest winter months.”

West Berkshire Homeless receives no funding from central or local government and relies purely on the generosity of individuals, local companies and its band of volunteers.

Those who would like to financially support West Berkshire Homeless or volunteer at the night shelter this winter should contact Erica Gassor on 07799 492235 or email erica.gassor@gmail.com

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