Dartford Churches Winter Shelter is a project aimed at helping homeless adults from Dartford to stay warm and safe during the cold winter nights, and to assist them with finding somewhere more permanent to live. The Shelter completed its fourth year of operation on 31 March 2017.
As in the previous 3 years, the shelter initially had ten available spaces, but in response to demand we increased bed space to 12 per night from February 2017, although we were still unable to meet all requests for a bed on a number of occasions.
All guests have to undergo an initial interview/ assessment to determine their eligibility for a place. A waiting list will operate once the 12 bed limit has been reached.
Referral can be made through any statutory agency or church or by self-referral. We regret we are unable to take referrals direct from hospital or prison or from those outside the Dartford area.
Places were offered on a first come first serve basis to homeless male and female adults over the age of 18.
There is no charge to use the Winter Shelter, with all costs being met by Dartford Churches and individuals eager to support the project.
The shelter moves nightly between seven different churches in the town, but all aim to provide the same level of care and support to those sleeping rough.
The shelter provided each guest with a hot meal, light entertainment, companionship, and a warm and comfortable place to sleep. Guests were also provided with breakfast in the morning.
All venues were no smoking, no alcohol and the guests all signed an agreement explaining the “rules”.
The gospel was “preached” by example only. Volunteers could answer questions about their faith and why we were doing what we were doing, but active evangelism was not allowed.
The Shelter aimed to act as a bridge leading to more permanent accommodation for guests, by providing them with some stability before they moved into longer term accommodation through the active support of Porchlight, to which guests were referred following arrival at the shelter. The shelter also served as a hub which guests used to access key statutory services, such as health care and welfare benefits.
Volunteers were drawn from the various churches in Dartford and the surrounding area and many individuals from the local community. Training was provided and every volunteer was giving a printed handbook.
The project was managed by the (voluntary) Project Administrator with activities at each venue supervised by the church venue co-ordinators. The Administrator reported to the Shelter Steering Committee, which is made up of representatives from all the host churches and from other churches in the area.
Occupancy of the Shelter was up from a 69% take-up in 2015/2016 to 88% this year. This figure increased to 93% when taking into account those that had booked a place but failed to turn up.
Over the period we were able to accommodate 41 guests, of whom 34 were men and 7 were women.
|Age Profile of Guests||Ethnic profile of guests|
|18 – 29||9||White British||28|
|30 – 39||9||White EU||9|
|40 – 49||13||Black British||2|
|50 – 59||8||Asian British||1|
|60 – 69||2||Other||1|
Guests needed the shelter for a range of reasons, including alcohol or drug abuse and dependency as well as debt, and relationship or marriage breakdown.
At the end of the project season:
- 9 were in accommodation of their own
- 8 had moved into the House of Mercy in Gravesend
- 6 returned to family
- 6 were sofa surfing
- 4 were working with Porchlight and Dartford Borough Council
- 8 nothing was known (these were mostly people who had only stayed 1-2 nights)
The project involved 195 volunteers, of whom 70 were new for 2017
Volunteers came a wide range of churches, from the Lions and with no affiliation at all.
The total cost of the project in 2017 was £ 7,764.95 – met entirely by donations from Dartford Churches and other supporters.
We are already planning for the shelter next year.
It will again run from the beginning of January through to the end of March, provided at eight church venues over seven nights.
- Sunday Net Church
- Monday The Salvation Army (for evening meal)
- City of David RCCG (overnight/breakfast)
- Tuesday Christ Church
- Wednesday Spital Street Methodist Church
- Thursday St Edmunds Church Living Well
- Friday Christ Church
- Saturday The Brent Methodist Church
We are hoping to be able to offer the guests even more support than we were able to this year and the Steering Group is in discussion with Porchlight and Dartford Borough Council about how this might be achieved.
For 2018, We have appointed two part-time Project Workers, who will be able to assist guests with this process as well as providing support and signposting with alcohol and drug addictions and relationship breakdowns.
How volunteers can help.
If you are able to give up 2 or 3 hours one evening a week we would love to have your help. Can you cook a meal for 15-20 people, help with breakfast or cleaning or stay overnight or help with laundry. If so please contact the Project Administrator.