Avenue Baptist Church is one of seven Churches that currently provides a Winter Night Shelter Provision for Southend Borough Council over the Winter months. We run a shelter each Sunday night from November to March with volunteers starting at 6pm and the last guest leaving at 8am Monday morning, providing each night a hot meal, company and a warm dry bed.
Under the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP), Southend Borough Council (SBC) has a humanitarian obligation to provide shelter from the elements for all Southend-based rough sleepers when the temperature is forecast to be below 0°C for 3 consecutive nights. In the past, they were able to do this with the help of e.g. HARP [The Southend Homeless Action Resource Project] and by using local hostels, hotels and B&Bs.
But in the late summer of 2011 the churches in Southend (through Love Southend) were approached to see if any church buildings could be made available during the winter months.
2014: Because the weather was very cold in March 2013 the season was extended until 31st March and so the Churches Winter Night Shelter (WNS) was open for 131 nights.
With a capacity of 20 beds per night, we had a potential 2620 bed nights available across the seven churches. 2400 of them were filled (92%); an average of 18 guests per night.
More than 200 volunteers worked over 11,500 hours to provide 137 different guests with a meal, bed and breakfast.
We cooked almost 3200 evening meals (+ those for volunteers) and approx. the same number of breakfasts. The figures come from a recording spreadsheet provided by Housing Justice and which went back to them (anonymised) at the end of the Shelter season to help them get a nationwide picture