Councillors campaign to keep Hatfield night shelter open all year round
PUBLISHED: 15:14 19 March 2018 | UPDATED: 15:14 19 March 2018
supplied by Hatfield Night Shelter
As the Hatfield Night Shelter prepares to close for the spring, Lib Dem councillors are calling for a more permanent facility.
A fresh blast of freezing weather has renewed concerns about the future of the Hatfield Night Shelter (HNS) as it winds up its first season in operation.
Organiser Chris Welsh has told the Welwyn Hatfield Times that out of 19 guests who used the service over the winter, six or seven people are still in need of help.
The organisers of the shelter are continuing to work with charity Resolve to find a solution for them.
The others have been helped into finding jobs, hostels or more permanent accommodation.
Chris explained that the shelter was planned as a volunteer-led project for winter only, whose opening dates have already been extended to March 24.
The team is planning to review the closing date weekly while unexpectedly cold weather is in the offing.
Chris said: “All the time that there’s snow on the ground, we want to keep people warm.”
However, once spring has finally sprung the shelter will not open again until November.
Chris said: “There were never any plans to extend it throughout the whole year.”
He pointed out that the service is dependent on volunteer time, cooperation between community groups, and donated space and goods, rather than large chunks of dedicated funding.
“What has been most valuable to us has been volunteer time,” he said.
Much also depends on having a suitable venue and facilities, which are currently donated by St Luke’s Church.
“We do need the resources, but we need that for winter 2018-19,” he said.
“We don’t want to get to November and then find we struggle to get volunteers.”
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat councillors have been calling on Welwyn Hatfield Council to support a year-round night shelter initiative.
County councillor for Haldens Barbara Gibson has started a petition asking the council to “provide support for the continuation and improvement of the night shelter for the homeless, ensuring it is not only able to continue in the winter months, but expanding it to a year-round provision in a facility better suited to meet basic human needs.”
The petition has had over 150 signatures since it was posted on March 12.
Cllr Gibson told the Welwyn Hatfield Times: “It’s not just snow that makes it a crisis to have people sleeping on the streets.
“Right now it’s a group of great people making it happen and that’s been wonderful.
But she added: “The night shelter needs proper facilities and without that it’s just not sustainable.
“Homelessness is directly tied to council responsibility and we want to make sure that people don’t fall through the gaps.”
Nigel Quinton, county councillor for Handside and Peartree and Paul Zukowskyj, county councillor for Hatfield South, and borough councillor for Welham Green and Hatfield South, have joined Cllr Gibson in stating they would be ready to commit part of their budget to such a project.
Cllr Gibson suggested that the borough council could contribute from money that is currently earmarked for reserves.
She said that they are “really, really trying not to make this a political issue,” pointing out that the current night shelter is one of the most cherished causes of the late mayor Lynne Sparks, a Conservative councillor.
Cllr Gibson’s petition can be found here: http://democracy.welhat.gov.uk/mgEPetitionDisplay.aspx?id=500000018