Battle to keep Hatfield Night Shelter open until warmer weather

PUBLISHED: 15:39 21 February 2018 | UPDATED: 15:39 21 February 2018

Hatfield Night Shelter getting ready for the winter. Picture: supplied by Hatfield Night Shelter

Hatfield Night Shelter getting ready for the winter. Picture: supplied by Hatfield Night Shelter

supplied by Hatfield Night Shelter

A successful first winter for the Hatfield Night Shelter has led to calls to keep its doors open.

Hatfield Night Shelter working group, L-R: Fr Darren Collins, Kay Fabiyi, Mark Brennan, Dominic Long, Mike Dyce, Chris Welsh, Mike Olugbenro, Sharman and Alan Pope. Image: Hatfield Night ShelterHatfield Night Shelter working group, L-R: Fr Darren Collins, Kay Fabiyi, Mark Brennan, Dominic Long, Mike Dyce, Chris Welsh, Mike Olugbenro, Sharman and Alan Pope. Image: Hatfield Night Shelter

The shelter, which opened for the first time in November, is set to close for the spring on March 10.

In that time, its impact has been immense.

Organiser Chris Welsh said that the people behind the project “have literally saved lives this winter”.

But with cold weather continuing, the team behind it are campaigning to be able to continue providing the service, with a petition in the works.

The Church of St Luke in Hatfield has seen frosty weather this winter.The Church of St Luke in Hatfield has seen frosty weather this winter.

Over 150 volunteers have cooked, cleaned and socialised with the shelter’s 19 guests so far, who previously were sleeping rough or homeless.

READ MORE: Volunteers sought ahead of Hatfield Night Shelter opening

The partnership between Hatfield Night Shelter (HNS) and charity Resolve has meant that at least three-quarters of their guests have taken steps towards a more stable future.

Chris said: “Each person that has been there has been a success story.

“They are no longer sleeping in shop doorways, and around three-quarters of those who have come to us are now moving into employment or alternative accommodation.

“Resolve have absolutely integral to making sure that happens.”

However, there are urgent needs for the future of the shelter beyond March 10 and into next winter.

The current building at the Church of St Luke lacks running water and a toilet, which has to be hired for use offsite.

Many of the start-up costs have now been covered, but Chris said the ideal would be to be able to employ someone to run the project.

Depending on whether a new venue is found, the shelter is looking for “anything from £5,000-15,000”.

Volunteers are a constant need, he explained.

“The key to this project is people’s time,” he said, adding that volunteers to cover night shifts are particularly hard to find.

He thanked the Church of St Luke, Ocado, F&F and the charity Emmaus, along with the large number of faith groups who became involved.

The project is part of the legacy of late mayor Lynne Sparks, who was involved in the project from the start and had listed its continuation as one of her new year’s resolutions.

Chris said: “This is of course a bitter-sweet victory, with the loss of Lynne who was an integral partner with me in establishing this shelter.

“In many respects it is overwhelming to comprehend the loss and successes, as both are massive.”

Helen Quenet, Liberal Democrat councillor for Welham Green and Hatfield South, has volunteered for the shelter and also called for its continuation beyond March in a borough council meeting on February 6.

“The thing is, these people are our residents and live in the area,” she told the Welwyn Hatfield Times.

“The most vulnerable are the ones we should think about the most.”

The shelter’s guests are not the only beneficiaries, however.

Everyone involved has benefited, said Chris. “Every person involved with this project no longer sees that homeless person as someone who is faceless without a name.

“They have learned that they are real people, with a story, a life and a future.

“I think we have all learned that collectively we can make a difference to that future.”

•Have you benefited from the Hatfield Night Shelter?

The Welwyn Hatfield Times would love to hear from you.

Please call 01707 371413.

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