Volunteering at Bristol’s 365 night shelter

night shelter

When visiting Broadmead you may have noticed two contactless donation points. There is one outside Tesco Metro and the other is near Primark. They were were launched in May 2017 to make it easy for you to make a donation of £2 to Bristol’s Safer off the Streets campaign and to date have taken over £4,000.

night shelter
Carmen from Tesco Metro at the launch of Safer off the Street’s contactless donation points

Following the success in Bristol Shopping Quarter, on Wednesday 15 November 2017 a third contactless donation station was launched at Bristol Energy on the Harbourside.

Safer off the Streets

Launched in November 2016, Safer off the Streets (SOS) aims to raise £100k for Bristol’s four night shelters. They offer 70 emergency bed spaces, providing somewhere safe and supportive  for people to stay while volunteers and staff help them find accommodation and assist with health and employment issues.

night shelter

The night shelters are run by St Mungo’s, The Julian Trust, Caring in Bristol and Crisis Centre Ministries, working in partnership with Bristol City Council.

The night shelters are free for the people who use them but the charities rely on fundraising and donations to keep them open.

Volunteering at one of Bristol’s night shelters

Heather Lister, a volunteer at the 365 night shelter, tells us what it is like to offer support to some of the most vulnerable people in our community:

“I volunteer at the 365 shelter with my husband, Richard, once a fortnight. The shelter is in a Quaker Meeting House, and can accommodate 15 homeless people overnight. Two volunteers attend each night, with experienced members of staff on call.

night shelter
Heather Lister and Richard Drake at the 365 Shelter

“Richard and I arrive at about 9.45pm to get things ready before guests arrive at 10.30pm. The first thing we do is check supplies (tea, coffee and sugar) and look through the hand-over book, where everyone who attends each night is recorded. We check whether there are any likely problems or considerations – we may be asked to give a guest a message or remind them of an appointment. Guests are referred by St Mungo’s, and we are given a list of people to expect. St Mungo’s tell us of any special medical conditions or needs they might have.

“Each guest is supplied with a camp bed and a plastic box with a sheet, duvet and pillow. When the guests arrive they find their boxes, set up their beds and have a welcoming cup of tea and a chat. First-timers are asked to sign an agreement comprising a few simple rules, and we help them settle in and see how things work. Guests are asked to arrive by 11.15pm. Many are exhausted, and all seem happy to get their heads down by about midnight. We provide ear-plugs (for the snoring!). Richard and I doze off on sofas just outside the “dormitory.”

The next morning

Heather continues:

“People usually start stirring at about 6.30am. At 6.45am gentle prompting such as drawing back curtains gets everyone else moving. There’s another cup of tea or coffee, and off they go with our good wishes.

“People coming to the 365 shelter are diverse – in age, background and circumstances. Not all are workless – we’ve known some to get up well before 6.30am to travel to work. Some move on from the shelter quite quickly, being already on their way to getting their own accommodation. All are engaging with services.

“A camp-bed in a dormitory isn’t ideal, but it’s a warm, safe place to stay, and hopefully prevents many people in temporary difficulty from becoming stuck in a harsh, dangerous lifestyle in which it is easy to lose hope.

“Ours is a simple provision. We’ve thought of organising evening meals, but this would need more volunteers to do an evening shift, and there are other places providing free food in Bristol. However, Bristol Quakers plan to build showers and laundry facilities at the Meeting House, which are much needed.

“I don’t think there are any special qualities that volunteers need, other than being happy to listen to troubles and triumphs, and having a conviction that this support is worthwhile – it is appreciated and it works.”

Would you like to volunteer?

If you would like to volunteer at any of the four city night shelters please contact the following people:

St Mungo’s night assessment shelter: Sommer.Rouse@mungos.org

Julian Trust night shelter: volunteers@juliantrust.org.uk

Caring in Bristol 365 shelter: Alex.wallace@caringinbristol.org.uk

Spring of Hope women’s night shelter: val@crisis-centre.org.uk

You can also make an online donation via the SOSBristol  fundsurfer page.