Shruland TRA hosted a Hackney Winter Night Shelter thank you lunch for their volunteers at the weekend. Over 40 pizzas were baked in the community’s wood fired pizza oven and were complimented by fresh salads grown in the garden.
Hackney Winter Night Shelter (HWNS) is a volunteer-run project that provides temporary accommodation for homeless people seven nights per week during the coldest months of the year. While it is one Shelter, it is held at a different venue in Hackney each night and the HWNS team rely on a network of host partners and several hundred volunteers to keep the Shelter open each season. Volunteers are from all walks of life: doctors, social workers, cleaners, writers, actors, architects, lawyers, teachers, care workers – there is even professional gardener among their number! What they have in common is their desire to help tackle homelessness.
In 1993, a group of local Christians, some of who had personal experience of homelessness, were thinking about how they could help the people they saw sleeping on the streets around Hackney. They had the idea that if a group of churches each took responsibility for running a shelter for one night of the week, some of those people could be helped. What started as a loose network of volunteers from local churches collaborating to address a problem on their doorsteps has developed into HWNS. The Shelter has always welcomed guests and volunteers of all faiths and none.
HWNS today is run by Hackney Doorways, a registered charity. Hackney Doorways is managed by trustees who are also volunteers and coordinators at the shelter.
The Shelter opens in November each year and for two months offers a warm meal and bed for the night for up to 15 guests in a variety of venues across Hackney. The Shelter closes over Christmas when Crisis provides its service, and reopens (in different venues) from January through to March. In these winter months HWNS accommodates more guests (up to 25) using a second venue as a dormitory. All guests arrive and eat together at the main Shelter and then some are taken to the dormitory where they sleep and have breakfast.
HWNS offers hospitality to all those who arrive, and regards them as guests. They try provide the best they can with limited resources, and to make their guests feel at home. The HWNS team thinks it is important to take time to have a chat with their guests and get to know them. Many guests have commented on the warmth of the welcome they receive.
You can find out more about HWNS and apply to volunteer at www.hwns.org.uk/