The ‘thank you’ celebration was organised to mark over 10,000 hours of time given by around 250 people to support the Night Light winter night shelter from December 2016 to February 2017.
Volunteers were thanked by Chair of the Social Inclusion Partnership Cllr Terri Reid, the Bishop of Basingstoke The Rt Revd David Williams and Night Light Project Coordinator Liz Howe.
Night Light was set up by town centre churches in response to the plight of rough sleepers, with the aim of providing a pop-up shelter for five nights a week for those most in need during the three coldest months of the year.
With donations raised through the Real Change not Loose Change crowd funding site set up by Basingstoke Voluntary Action and funding from Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, Night Light gave 45 people sleeping on the streets a hot meal, a warm bed for the night and an opportunity to seek support and engage with local agencies. The hospitality included recreation activities and a friendly chat with a volunteer.
But its success would not have been possible without the many people who gave up their time each night to welcome their guests into the night shelter, cook food, set up beds, provide support and more.
And this time did make a difference with 32 people, who might otherwise have found themselves sleeping on the streets, taking steps to secure accommodation following regular visits to the night shelter. Significant progress was also made by guests in reducing their alcohol consumption and engaging in conversation.
Comments from guests included “the night shelter has saved my life”.
The Night Light coordinator Liz Howe said: “Night Light was set up as an emergency crisis response to offer shelter and hospitality during the winter months to those people who would otherwise have no other option than to sleep on the streets during the coldest time of year.
“There has been a real desire from the churches to do something to help with the increase of homelessness and with the support of the Social Inclusion Partnership and the overwhelming response from residents and local businesses to donate time, money and items we were able to make this work and help many people who may have found themselves on the streets. The volunteers’ compassion, expressed in very practical action, meant that the Night Light guest experience was excellent, ensuring they were welcomed with dignity and left with a renewed sense of hope for a different way of life. I would like to thank everyone for their support in making this happen, we are now working towards running Night Light again this winter.”
Deputy Leader of the council Cllr Terri Reid said: “Many people give hours of their time every day to support vital services and causes in the borough and their help is invaluable.
“The night shelter is a prime example of a project that’s success relied heavily upon people volunteering to help those more in need than themselves. We were overwhelmed by the response to the call for both volunteers and donations, but not surprised as it’s very clear there is real desire in Basingstoke and Deane to work together to tackle homelessness and the causes of it.
“This combined effort between the housing services and providers, community and faith groups, charities, local businesses and residents is crucial and it’s important that we recognise this and say ‘thank you’ for this support which is making a difference to the lives of those people who need it most.”
For more information on how you can help to reduce homelessness in the borough and receive updates on fundraising visit www.basingstoke.gov.uk/real-change.