On the coldest night of the year so far, the Horsham Winter Night Shelter opened to homeless people in the town for the first time on Saturday.
The night shelter based at St John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Springfield Road and organised by the Horsham Churches Together will operate in December, January and February and on Saturday six people were referred to the long awaited service.
Volunteers from across the Horsham churches are working throughout winter to provide the service.
Project coordinator Hazel Lamb said: “The first few nights in the shelter have gone extremely well. There has been a fantastic atmosphere and it’s been great to be able to provide our guests with a bed for the night especially as the weather has now turned much colder. It’s certainly hard work and we’re still learning, but we’re really looking forward to the next three months.”
People sleeping in the shelter have welcomed the warm bed and company at night.
Wayne, 36, who has been ‘sofa-surfing’ for months, said: “It was really welcoming. We had an evening meal, everyone helps tidy up, they are team players and really friendly.
“I have been homeless on and off for about a year and I’m giving friends a bit of a break.
“The people who are staying there are so far from Ark (a Horsham charity which helps people struggling with life, including those who are homeless). People were staying in car parks, stair wells. Then the wardens move you on and you just go back.”
Luke, 21, breaks all the stereotypes a homeless person.
He said: “I don’t look particularly like someone who’s homeless, I’ve always worked, I went to school. I don’t have any issues with drugs or alcohol. It was just circumstances. It could happen to anyone.”
He had a flat and his private tenancy came up for renewal, but his landlord did not want to continue the lease, so he had to find somewhere less to live, but it was harder than he thought it would be.
He said: “I was in Eastbourne and I had a flat, my dad lives in Roffey, but like lots of young people things aren’t simple with my parents.
“It’s scary being homeless. You think about your life and wishing it could be different. The night shelter is peaceful , you can always talk to someone if you want to. You can be open about pretty much anything.
“I want to be working, to have a flat and to be settled and to look back in a year’s time and say ‘that was emotional, but it’s behind me now’.”