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Helping people experiencing homelessness

For the past three winters, our Cold Weather Shelter in Redbridge has been run by a network of committed volunteers and staff. Church leaders Lieutenants John and Naomi Clifton manage the centre. Prior to its opening this winter, John gives an overview of how the centre operates on a nightly basis when the temperatures drop and how they provide hope to those in despair.

Just because someone is sleeping rough, it doesn’t mean they don’t deserve our love and care

Helping people experiencing homelessness

Every night, from 4 December to 6 March, around 35 people will be gathered outside the gate at The Salvation Army building in Clements Road in Ilford. Most will be shivering, some will be boisterous, a handful will be keeping to themselves quietly.  After our network of volunteers finish preparing and setting up for the night, our guests start entering the shelter at around 8pm.  Unfortunately, we can only sleep 25 people each night - prioritising the most vulnerable. That’s the hardest part of night shelter - knowing we aren’t being able to accommodate everyone.

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Our volunteers

On average, we have around 150 volunteers who give up 49 hours each throughout the winter.  Each volunteer plays a different, but pivotal role. These roles include managing entry at the gate, welcoming newcomers inside, manning the registration desk, running games and activities, providing a listening ear and then, of course, there are our amazing cooks who serve around 3,600 hot meals and 9000 hot drinks – providing much needed relief in plunging temperatures.  We also have volunteers who stay overnight to support our overnight staff with any tasks and keeping people safe. We aim to instil a belief in our volunteers that just because someone is sleeping rough, it doesn’t mean they don’t deserve our love and care.

More than just a place to stay

Over the last three winter seasons, we’re proud of the fact that over 100 people have moved on from the nightshelter since we’ve been running. With our local partners, we work tirelessly to give everyone the opportunity to move on.  Unfortunately, not everyone can, but it’s about half of our guests that do.  Last winter, 31 of 60 rough sleepers found themselves moving on to a more stable environment whether rehab, hostel or flat.  We’re looking forward to the prospect that this winter, we will be able to offer cycle maintenance training through our bike refurbishment social enterprise Recycles We have a dream that one winter, we’re going to have to close the shelter early because everybody will have been rehoused. We know that at the moment, it’s a dream, but at the Redbridge Cold Weather Centre, there’s a strange tendency for dreams to come true!  

To see the latest updates from the Redbridge Cold Weather Shelter, check out their Facebook page If you would like to volunteer, please get in touch on 0208 478 2961 or email ilford@salvationnarmy.org.uk You can donate to the centre online or by texting RCWC61 plus the amount to 70070. Photo credit: Anja King