So, what is the Night Shelter about?
Having been approached by several members of the congregation enquiring about this mysterious “Night Shelter” that St. John’s hosts on a Sunday night, this outlines what the Night Shelter involves and what it means for those involved. Maindee Parish has been involved in hosting the Night Shelter since its inception in Newport some nine years ago. Back in 2009 things were very different and it wasn’t abundantly clear what the different Churches were letting themselves in for! Some guests were abusive, others were aggressive to the volunteers and it was difficult to police the substance issues many of the guests had.
Over the recent years the Night Shelter has grown and Newport Night Shelter, the Charity set up by a husband and wife team, has evolved into ‘Eden Gate’ now based on Hill Street in Newport city Centre, opposite the Salvation Army. Eden Gate has changed its focus under the guidance of its new Operations Manager who has changed the focus to one of supporting re-homing and rehabilitation of the guests and delegated more of the Night Shelter ‘running’ to the individual Churches. There are 14 Churches currently hosting the Night Shelter from late November to round Easter. Each Church does one night per week for nine weeks, with a changeover to the second group at the end of January.
A typical night will involve setting up ready to welcome the guests around 18:00 with the Co-ordinator from Eden gate arriving to check the guests in and approve their entry around 18:30. The doors open at 19:00 and there is a mad rush for tea and biscuits, with plenty of sugar in the tea! The guests have a cooked meal around 20:00 and then most tend to wind down after dinner. Some will stay up and talk of sport, ex-partners (a major source of homelessness in Newport is relationship breakdown) or just pass the time of day. There is the occasional conflict as may be expected with some individuals being in the Night shelter together for 18 weeks! Air beds and bedding are provided, and the guests settle down for a night’s sleep by 23:00, the overnight shift starts at 22:00 and will be busy to begin with overseeing final drinks and cigarette breaks. All tends to be quiet from midnight until around 04:30/05:00 as some guests will then ask to be woken for an early breakfast before they travel to work. Yes, some guests do have full-time employment but due to cash flow cannot raise a deposit having been asked to leave a previous home. Eden Gate will help as much as they can in this area but unfortunately some guests are regular attendees; but the upside is the opportunity for the volunteers to build friendships with the guests. After a light breakfast the guests leave by 08:30 and are reminded of the next Church to attend that night, seen on their way by the returning Eden Gate co-ordinator and then the Church is swept, mopped and toilets cleaned ready for another week!
Speaking personally, it has been a rewarding experience with some guests becoming friendly faces over the duration. As co-ordinator for St. John’s one of the busiest times for me is November/December time preparing the rota of dedicated volunteers, without whom we could not host the Shelter. Guests do appreciate, coats, socks and toothbrushes/toothpaste donations so a thank you to the kind members of the congregation whom offer these.