The Night Shelter for the homeless is open from the beginning of January to the end of March. Every night during those three months a different church in Swansea opens its doors at 7pm to up to 12 homeless people who have been referred by various agencies.
The Methodist Church is responsible for Saturday nights with the shelter based at either our Mumbles or Sketty churches. The guests, mainly men, are varied in age from 20 to mid-60’s and are homeless for all sorts of reasons: relationship break-up; loss of work and then home; drink and drug addiction and so on. Many of the younger ones were from chaotic family backgrounds.
Rules are few in the night shelter, but strictly adhered to for the sake of all guests and the volunteers. If the guests arrive after 8pm, they are not allowed entry, and guests must not bring in alcohol or drugs.
Following a 2-course hot evening meal, there is time for conversation, watching a DVD, or playing cards. The guests are provided with an inflatable mattress and bedding, and can go to bed at any time, although “lights out” is at 11pm. The guests are given breakfast, before being driven to Zac’s Place (a drop-in centre off St Helen’s Rd where they can get medical help) at around 8am. Meanwhile their bedding is transported to the next night’s centre.
The volunteers come mainly, but not exclusively, from the churches of Swansea, with Methodists well represented! They work in three shifts: 6-10pm, 10pm-6am, and 6am-9am, and apart from providing food, offer company and a listening ear. The volunteers are never judgemental: “there but for the grace of God…….”!
As a result of their contact with the Night Shelter, around 20 guests who accessed the shelter this year were found permanent accommodation, either in hostels or in flats, and several have managed to turn their lives around. One of them said last week that if it wasn’t for the Night Shelter, he would still be “knocking back the booze”. Instead, he has been “dry” for a week and his relationship with family members is being restored.