Bristol churches open doors for homeless people as City Office announces progress on offer of 100 extra bed spaces in 100 days: 100 beds - Mayor Marvin Rees talks to night shelter guest Emile

25 Jan 2017

Mayoral & Vision

Bristol churches open doors for homeless people as City Office announces progress on offer of 100 extra bed spaces in 100 days

Businesses, faith groups, housing associations, social landlords and community groups are coming together to help tackle the housing crisis in Bristol.

The City Office issued an appeal to the city to help provide 100 extra bed spaces in 100 days to house some of the city’s most vulnerable people.

Alongside this, Bristol’s churches are working together with St Mungo’s to open their doors to homeless guests this winter.

Seven churches, supported by more than 150 volunteers from churches across Bristol, are currently hosting up to 12 guests a night as part of a four week pilot. Guests are being referred to the project by the St Mungo’s outreach team.

Richard Chilvers, Bristol Churches Winter Night Shelter coordinator said: “The churches in Bristol are reaching out to welcome homeless people during a time of year when it is often freezing outside. Our volunteers want to offer rough sleepers a good hot meal and a safe and warm place to stay.

“Our hope is they will be able to move off the streets and find permanent accommodation. Our aim is to support them in that journey as part of the city’s response to the large number of homeless people we all see every day on our streets.”

The City Office has already had offers of 33 bed spaces from social landlords in the city. These will be for people who have already started their journey off the streets, freeing up spaces for those currently rough sleeping.

The priority now is to find private landlords who can offer shared housing at Local Housing Authority rates and companies with empty private properties that could be used for temporary beds.

The City Office is a citywide partnership spearheaded by Mayor Marvin Rees. Bringing together key agencies and prominent figures in city leadership, the City Office will help formally join up activities and city policies as Bristol works more closely together on major issues.

Street homelessness was identified as one of the key priorities for the City Office when it was launched back in September.

Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees said: “We have had a great response and I would like to thank everyone who has come forward to help us from local businesses, faith groups and other organisations.

“However, we still have a long way to go, and I would encourage anyone who thinks they might be able to help us provide some vital accommodation or other resources to get in touch.

“Homelessness is a complex problem that cannot be solved overnight. That is why all these organisations have come together to work towards long term change, committing to ending the blocks and barriers to finding stable homes for some of the city’s most vulnerable people.”

The churches scheme is being run as a pilot scheme in the expectation that next year the project will open for a longer period. Although the church bed spaces are supporting the City Office initiative, they are not being counted as part of the 100 beds as they were pledged before the formal proposal was put together.

The seven church venues are located within walking distance of Bristol city centre. Venues and volunteers represent a diverse range of churches including Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Congregational, Pentecostal and the Salvation Army. The Bristol Churches Winter Night Shelter (BCWNS) is inviting leaders from other faiths and community leaders to observe the shelters this year in the hope they will be able to join the initiative next year.

Gareth Mercer, St Mungo’s Shelter Coordinator said: “I think it’s really positive that churches and faith groups in Bristol are coming together to help rough sleepers. The churches involved will provide vital shelter off the streets at the coldest time of the year.

“Support provided to people in the shelters will be in conjunction with council commissioned services ensuring that the shelter stay is short and we quickly get that person into stable accommodation to allow them to rebuild their lives.”

If you would like to get involved and support the City Office initiative please email city.office@bristol.gov.uk