Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Upsides and downsides of living in the night shelter

Living in a night shelter is no picnic. You are probably not in the most robust place, mentally when you arrive. You have to immediately get used to mixing with twenty five strangers, eating your meals with them, at night you have to accustom yourself to sharing the room where you sleep with them. The numbers you share the room with at night varies, women are partitioned off from the men and depending on the numbers and space available some of the people are taxied off to sleep in other churches.

There are some huge upsides:

  • you are warm and dry and inside.
  • you have a hot meal in the evening.
  • you have a breakfast in the morning, cooked if you want it.
  • you have access to clean clothes should you be short of them.
So what are the drawbacks?

  • they kick you out at eight o'clock in the morning. This is so the church can get on with all the other things it usually does. (there are very few free places open at eight o'clock in the morning that are warm and dry) A cup of tea costs 80p in Hackney and the libraries don't open until nine. Some people just head for the nearest bookie.
  • There tends to be a lot of travelling about - to the different churches and to where you spend your day. Almost everyone walks everywhere. 
Please don't get me wrong, everyone I have spoken to is grateful for all the help and the shelter that they get. The service they get is excellent, well thought through, highly organised, caring and sympathetic. We all know that we are lucky and that there is a waiting list to get on the scheme.

One observation I do have is that it is the churches that provide this service, this need is met by churches; housing the needy and the poor, those who are down on their luck. This has been the case for hundreds of years.

David Cameron, when he came to power, banged on about the Big Society, it was one of his buzz phrases. Surely he must have known that it was there all along?


  1. Very accurately describes the up and down sides of night shelter. The writer themselves, might have a conflicted relationship with religion and church as despite adopting a slightly aloof tone towards churches they do praise the institution for providing such a service.

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