Ipswich Winter Night Shelter provides a warm and safe place for homeless people in Ipswich.
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Historically, our night shelter has operated over the coldest months of the year. Different churches generously hosted the shelter – one for each night of the week. The shelter could accommodate around 12 people a night and they would be provided with a homemade, two-course hot evening meal, shower facilities (at some of the halls), the company of our trained volunteers and support from our staff during the day. This worked well but our guests asked if we could run from a single venue where they could settle and safely leave their belongings.
In the summer of 2019, our charity manager, Julia Hancock, looked at an empty building in central Ipswich. This building had been empty for several years so needed a lot of work, but we could picture how this neglected building could provide our guests with shelter.
The original plan for the new premises was to knock down several walls and replicate the communal setting like we had in the church halls. Due to various delays, the refurbishment had not started as soon as we hoped. This was a blessing in disguise because if we had gone for a communal design, we would not have been able to open for the winter of 2020/21. Covid-19 meant that communal night shelters could not run safely.
In order to make our new building safe, we worked with our builders, Ipswich Borough Council, Housing Justice and special advisors from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. Together we decided that the best way to keep our shelter guests safe was to create ensuite bedrooms and to install a ventilation system that would push fresh air safely through the building. To make this possible, we raised an additional £60,00 in less than 3 weeks. Building work started in August 2020 and finished in November. Our shelter opened 10 days later.
We were able to build in other measures to ensure our premises were as Covid safe as possible. We raised additional funding to employ extra staff because many of our volunteers were unable to join us (because they were shielding or caring for family members).
We could not have done this without the support of our volunteers, staff, donors and supporters. 20 individuals used the shelter in total. By working alongside other local organisations, we were able to find longer-term accommodation for all the guests who worked with us. We did not have any cases of Covid in the shelter, despite having over 100 staff and volunteers involved. We cannot thank our volunteers, staff, donor and supporters enough.