Shelter offers help to those in need

Centenary Methodist Church. Venue for the emergency night shelter in Boston.
Centenary Methodist Church. Venue for the emergency night shelter in Boston.

AS temperatures plummet, the idea of being out in the cold gets less and less attractive for most.

But some people have no choice but to be outside - no matter how low the mercury drops.

Rev Neil Vickers with church coodinator Mike Jessop and shelter volunteer Elizabeth Holland.

Rev Neil Vickers with church coodinator Mike Jessop and shelter volunteer Elizabeth Holland.

In Boston, however, the homeless have somewhere to go when winter starts to bite, after Churches Together set up an emergency night shelter for those who are out on the streets.

The facility, at Centenary Methodist Church, opens its doors when temperatures fall below freezing, offering a safe haven for people facing a night in the elements.

Reverend Neil Vickers, chairman of Churches Together, said: “It’s warm and it’s dry and it’s safe. We don’t offer advice. We don’t ask questions. It’s very much what the church is all about.”

This is the second year the night shelter has been in operation. Last winter the church opened its doors for 41 nights - including Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.

It was due to open for the first time in mid to late December last year, but bad weather forced the opening date forward.

Mike Jessop, co-ordinator of the shelter, said: “It felt like God was saying to us ‘just open the doors’, and everything was fine. I think it’s very valuable, because on a cold night we can be looking at somebody freezing. It’s something that churches can offer which the council would not be able to.

“Here is a church and we are using to give shelter to people in need.”

The shelter opens its doors at 10pm and homeless people can get a hot drink and a warm place to sleep for the night.

All the volunteers ask is that there is no alcohol, no drugs and no abusive behaviour.

Last year, between six and 15 people used the shelter each night it was open.

Around 40 volunteers helped out by supervising, tidying and ensuring nothing went awry.

There was just one incident when police had to be called, after a man became agitated in the night.

Mike said: “It was very encouraging. They respect the fact they have this and they respect us. We respect them as well, which is important.”

Although the shelter is based in a church, it is not a religious venture. Nor are the volunteers all members of local churches - around half are people from the community who have come into the role from all walks of life. Some of the volunteers have even been homeless themselves.

Neil said most of the volunteers had happily offered their time again this year, adding that many enjoyed the work last year.

He said: “It brings a richness of life and gives a different view of things. It’s quite challenging. Some of the questions they come up with are difficult. Where they’re coming from is very different from where we’re coming from.”

Most of the people who used the shelter last year were men, but a small number of women also went along. Around half were foreign nationals.

The cost of the heating was the main issue last year, as the radiators had to be on throughout the back of the building.

This year, the shelter has been given £7,000 from Boston Borough Council and Boston Rotary Club to isolate the heating and save some money.

The cause has also received a lot of donations from individuals.

“People have been very generous,” Mike said.

l To volunteer at the shelter contact Mike Jessop on 01205 821300.