The Winter Night Shelter is run by Norwich City Council in partnership with local churches. It opened in November and will continue until the end of March. The churches provide the venue (Norwich Central Baptist Church for three nights per week and St John’s Cathedral for four nights); other agencies provide additional support including cleaners and security. Referral to the night shelter is through Pathways or Norwich City Council.
There are on average 10-15 people staying night-by-night, but that number does fluctuate. Bedding is provided and is laundered regularly by a local evangelical community. The hall is cleaned after every use, not only to keep Covid-safe, but also to provide a decent and clean place for people to sleep.
The shelter usually starts at about 8.30pm, after soup runs in the city centre, and remains open until 8am. When people leave at 8am they often visit the local day centre available for rough sleepers run by the Salvation Army.
The night shelter relies on volunteers every evening and morning whose primary role is to talk to anyone accessing the shelter, check on their wellbeing and liaise with partners to support them in finding longer-term accommodation options.
Alongside this corporate response, many parishioners work in their own capacity, doing works of charity to help the homeless in various ways.
“During these winter months, we in Cathedral House have acquired wonderful new neighbours,” said Fr Simon Davies, “and we have learned a lot about the experiences of the homeless in our city; I have been privileged from time to time to hear some of their stories. Many of them have lived very hard lives, and are filled with sadness, though many, too are full of joy.
“We are greatly privileged with our beautiful Cathedral, and it is wonderful to be able to share some love and hope with those in dire need. Some also avail themselves of the Cathedral church, either saying their prayers before the hall opens, or even visiting the Cathedral church in the morning. I’ve had someone who even sometimes quietly hears my private Mass in the morning at a side chapel now and then.
“Homelessness is a great ignored plight in our modern world. As we strive to live securely and warmly, many get left behind for all sorts of reasons. We hope that, as well as providing practical help, we have been able to raise awareness of the needs of others.”
Pictured above and below are some of the homeless visitors to the night shelter.