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Volunteer shortage temporarily shuts Wolverhampton homeless shelter

By James Vukmirovic | Wolverhampton | News | Published:

A shelter that offers homeless people a place to stay has been forced to close for two months due to a shortage of volunteers.

Inside the Wolverhampton Church Shelter in the city centre

The Wolverhampton Church Shelter, which operates at the Tabernacle Baptist Church on Broad Street, closed its doors on Sunday, leaving manager Jeremy Watson and his staff working frantically to rehouse their guests.

He said: “We have been working with our partners like Wolverhampton Homes, the Good Shepherd, Refugee and Migrant Centre flat out for the last two weeks trying to make sure that we could find places for as many as we possibly could.

“Our partners have been doing a fantastic job and we’ve been meeting with them every week and we’re managing to find places each day”

Despite the two-month closure, there is good news as the shelter moves to new premises in September, sharing a home on Waterloo Road with the Good Shepherd Ministry.

The shelter closed on July 28

The shelter was also forced to close last year as the number of available volunteers dropped in the holiday season.

Mr Watson explained: “We hit a point where peak holidays meant that, in terms of rotas of volunteers, we were running so thin we couldn’t sustain so we’ve had to take the decision again to shut down in August and September.”

"This is very sad and not what we wanted to do, but you’ve got have a minimum number of volunteers to run the shelter.

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"In an ideal world, bearing in mind that we are open seven nights a week, you need a pool of about between 80 and 100 volunteers to really make it sustainable over a period because the volunteers tend to be on at least once a fortnight."

Three years on for shelter

The Wolverhampton Church Shelter began back in February 2016 as a four-week pilot project, following the death of a rough sleeper in the city centre in early January that year.

A Facebook page was created and £6,000 was donated within four weeks, while more than 30 volunteers were recruited and trained from many different backgrounds across the city.

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Unlike other severe weather shelters, the Church Shelter stayed open seven days a week because the primary purpose was for it to be a place of rest and recuperation.

Shelter staff worked to find places for the most recent 22 guests to stay

After the successful pilot, the shelter was opened for four months in 2017 and, in 2018, opened with the intention of providing a 365 day-a-year service, something Jeremy still wants to achieve.

He said: "The historical approach to night shelters was one which we didn’t want to do.

"A night shelter, historically and which has been seen in other cities, is seen as just a place for people to get into to get out of the weather.

"We said, from the word go, that’s not what we’re going to do.

"We’re going to provide a place which offers rest, recuperation and relationships, because our whole ethos is a culture of A) being family and B) helping people to move on and progress, so it’s not a static place.

"Every space in the shelter is viewed as temporary because we want everybody to move on, so it’s seeing people who have lost all hope, who’ve fallen off the bottom rung of life, and instilling some hope back into them with help and with hand-holding, they can make it and that’s really what it’s about".

The shelter is now embarking on a volunteer campaign to ensure that the work started in 2016 can continue.

James Vukmirovic

By James Vukmirovic
Community Reporter - @jamesvukmirovic

Community Reporter at the Express & Star, helping under-represented communities to find a voice in Wolverhampton. Contact me at james.vukmirovic@expressandstar.co.uk.

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