Local homeless charity Wirral Ark has launched a new Community Night Shelter to provide a fresh approach to fighting the rise in rough sleeping in the area.
Using the resources and support of the Wirral community, the winter night shelter is running for 8 weeks and is being hosted by 9 different community venues which would otherwise be empty overnight, including:
- Birkenhead Library
- Age UK Wirral
- Salvation Army Rock Ferry Church
- Christchurch Bebington
- Wirral Gateway Church
- The Spire/St Luke’s Wallasey
- St Michael’s and All Angels Pensby
- St Andrews Community Church/Oxton St Saviours
- The Meeting Place
The 12 bed shelter is open between the hours of 7pm to 9am each day providing a lifeline to the area’s growing number of rough sleepers. Each venue is staffed by trained volunteers and is opening its doors on a designated night as part of the 8 week project, offering homeless people a warm welcome, comfy bed, hot meal and breakfast.
Wirral Ark will assess and refer all guests to the Arklight project ensuring they get the level of support they need. To date, Arklight has provided 64 bed spaces to rough sleepers in the 3 weeks it has been open.
Inside the venue, 12 comfy beds with matching duvets are carefully arranged, each with its own chair, and a Care Package sits at the end of each bed containing toiletries and other essentials. All of the participating venues report that they have been overwhelmed with donations of clothing and toiletries from churches, local businesses, schools, Rotary groups and Girl Guides.
Volunteer, Bob Fiddaman, explains, “Arklight is about more than providing a roof over the head of homeless people. At the heart of the project is to provide hospitality and welcome to homeless people which is why we refer to people who access the shelter as ‘guests’ not ‘service users’ or ‘clients’”.
While guests make themselves comfortable volunteers are busy in the kitchen making tonight’s meal of beef hot pot and a desert of chocolate sponge and custard. Volunteers and guests all sit together to enjoy the meal. Later in the evening guests and volunteers sit around and chat before lights are switched off. Volunteers stay overnight to ensure that guests are safe before waking them in the morning and preparing a hot breakfast.
Guest, Matt, says about the shelter “..sometimes life is hard, too hard to handle, but the people at (Arklight) have softened the blows with love, respect and generosity”. This is a sentiment echoed by Brian who has also been using the shelter after splitting with his partner and says that getting a bed at Arklight has helped him keep safe and out of trouble while he waits to be accommodated. Guests say that without Arklight they would be sleeping in tents on the waterfront.
The project is the idea of Wirral Ark and is being coordinated by Business Development Manager, Jackie Snell “Wirral Ark is incredibly grateful to the community for stepping up and getting involved with Arklight. We made an appeal in November 2018 for help and could never have predicted the response we’ve received. We’ve trained over 300 volunteers and support has come in many forms from church groups knitting hats, school children donating toiletries, to the library opening its doors.
Wirral Ark is passionate about ending homelessness, we work to tackle the root causes of homelessness but the fact remains that with ever increasing numbers the current system is struggling to cope. Arklight is a lifeline to people who fall into crisis and those who are waiting to be housed with homeless services”.
The recent official Rough Sleeper Count which takes a snap shot of visible rough sleeping each November showed that in 2018 Wirral has seen a 46% rise in rough sleeping in the past 3 years. Another driver for the project is the growing waiting lists for local homeless services. Wirral Ark’s 27 bedroom hostel currently has a waiting list of over 50 homeless people who are forced to use squats, sofa surf with friends and family or sleep rough while they wait to be accommodated.
Arklight is a pilot project, the long-term plan is to run the shelter every winter collaborating with the community to take action on homelessness. For more information please contact Jackie Snell email@example.com