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Sleepsafe Weymouth

by Michael Ford last modified 29 Jan, 2019 03:35 PM

As the weather gets even colder, four churches in Weymouth have opened their doors overnight, a week at a time, to accommodate rough sleepers as part of the ‘SleepSafe Weymouth’ night shelter project.

The churches - St John's, St Mary's, the Weymouth Baptist Church and the church hall belonging to a redundant Catholic Church, St Augustine’s - have come together under the 'ecumenical' umbrella of Refresh (the church of Weymouth and Portland in action) and have joined with two local homeless charities to offer safe, warm overnight hospitality to homeless from the town.

The first church to be used is St John’s, but volunteers from all the churches stepped forward to serve drinks, a light meal, and give assistance whilst having conversation with the 'clients' until time to bed down, which is around midnight.

They are working alongside employees from the Lantern Trust, who give day by day support, advice and hospitality to rough sleepers and the vulnerable, and Julian House, who do outreach work on the streets with rough sleepers. Their two outreach workers welcome and sign in the 'clients' (they stay up to around midnight), and work alongside an overnight manager.

The Revd Nick Clarke, Rural Dean of Weymouth and Portland, said:
“As a parish team we are thrilled to be making some progress in addressing the needs of Weymouth rough sleepers, not out of any sense of 'ego' but simply because the town centre mission is definitely one of our priorities in mission in all kinds of ways.

Sleepsafe Weymouth beds [Jan 2019]

He also said this had been truly a collaborative effort:
“There has been a lot more by way of partnership than just the formal association between these three and some not from the churches as well. The boss of the taxi firm, Weyline Taxis is making a significant contribution in terms of transport and provisions.

“People are contributing food and help from all over the place. The Mayor of Weymouth Council, Gill Taylor is also involved, not only ensuring some finance was released into the scheme but becoming a volunteer herself when she can.

“The first night is done. We had a lovely evening with 10 guests enjoying homemade soup and cake and hot drinks. The night went well and was generally settled and breakfast has been eaten. As we sat in St John's with the guests, one playing draughts, others enjoying the peace and others chatting we could hear the howling wind and rain pouring down outside and were thankful.

“The night went very well. 10 rough sleepers took up the opportunity to sleep in last night. All very pleasant, many of them substance users but with outreach workers on site till quite late, there was a disciplined and reassuring presence.

“All of the 'clients' had various degrees of vulnerability. There was one lovely moment when two young female rough sleepers, having been quite hostile to one another, went and had a chat and were reconciled whilst sitting in a side pew at the heart of the church. The tears flowed and their embrace was heartfelt. All in all, a great start and what a wild night outside!”

The shelters will be open until the end of March.

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