|Fr Kevin Dring together with Night Shelter Volunteers|
Each church was responsible for one night’s activity. This involved shopping for supplies, arranging the dining and sleeping accommodation, assembling 15 beds, registration of the guests from 8.00-8.30pm, preparing and serving dinner, providing entertainment, overseeing sleeping arrangements with volunteers on duty all night, cooking and serving breakfast, departure of the guests by 8.00am, cleaning the venue and moving the beds and bedding on to the next church.
A total of 54 volunteers worked on the Night Shelter at Sacred Heart Church under Fr. Kevin Dring, formed into three shifts; Evening (7.00-10.45pm), Overnight (10.30pm-6.30am) and Morning (6.15-9.00am). Each shift had a designated Leader, a First Aider and a Fire Warden, with a Food Manger for the Evening and Morning shifts.
In total, 42 homeless men used the Brighton & Hove Winter Night Shelter during the 14 weeks it was in operation. An important aspect of the Shelter was the effort made to help the men improve their lives (rather than merely to provide them with accommodation and food). Each guest was offered assistance with finding housing, getting work or identifying a course to improve their skills and, in total, 17 of the 42 men were found housing, with several more starting jobs or courses.
For the churches, the experience was enormously beneficial. It was the ability to carry out the Gospel command to feed the hungry and to shelter the homeless. It was the creation of caring communities that came together to be the Church in action. It was discovering the joy to be found in serving others. Approximately two-thirds of the volunteers at Sacred Heart were female and the ages of the volunteers ranged from university students in their late teens to pensioners, many of whom were over 70. There was a tremendous esprit de corps, with volunteers turning up early for their shifts just so they could spend more time with the guests and each other. Some comments from my file: ‘I was left with a nice warm fluffy feeling’ ‘I really enjoyed helping’ ‘it was a great experience’ ‘rewarding and pleasurable’ ‘I really loved being a volunteer.’
So, we had a party. And we agreed that we would be volunteering again this winter.