22 OCT 2013

New Church Winter Shelter Initiative For Maidstone's Homeless: MP Helen To Be One Of The First Volunteers

Maidstone's provisions for homeless people in winter will see a brand new service starting this year, and Maidstone and The Weald MP, Helen Grant, is giving it her full support.

Maidstone Churches' Winter Shelter offers a warm welcome overnight for homeless people in the coldest months (www.maidstoneshelter.org.uk).  Church members and other volunteers in seven participating Maidstone churches will provide an evening meal, a compassionate and supportive ear and help in finding appropriate longer term accommodation.

Local MP and Government Equalities Minister, Helen Grant, has offered to become one of the volunteers on the first night of the programme on Monday 30th December 2013.

Helen said:

"As winter approaches, the plight of people without a home is not only uncomfortable and lonely, it becomes hostile and life-threatening.  Maidstone Churches' Winter Shelter is a solution rich in both professional and relational support.  I am delighted to be involved in the project and will be promoting and supporting it wherever I can".

Maidstone's Salvation Army Leader, Major Grayson Williams, said:

"Maidstone Churches' Winter Shelter is a vital initiative for very vulnerable people.  The local authority, our agencies and church leaders, all working together with Helen's support, are a great example of positive action in our community".

Presently, Maidstone Borough Council provides bed and breakfast accommodation under its Severe Weather Emergency Protocol and at other times, during cold weather, the Maidstone Day Centre in Knightrider Street (www.homelessinmaidstone.org.uk) also provides basic bed and breakfast accommodation.  But the needs of the homeless in winter go much deeper and with that in mind, Maidstone's Daytime Agencies, Maidstone Borough Council, the Salvation Army and local church leaders came together to devise an affordable initiative to complement the town's existing services.

The shelter commences on Monday 30th December 2013 and runs through to Sunday 23rd February 2014, but organisers say more help is required to ensure the pilot project's success, and create a sustainable model for the coming years.

People can help in three ways:

Volunteers are needed each evening for setting up, welcoming homeless guests, serving meals and offering care through compassionate and sensitive conversation.  Volunteers are also needed overnight, with each volunteer spending half the night awake on duty.  For an application form and more information, go to: www.maidstoneshelter.org.uk/volunteer.php.

Funding is needed – it is easy to make a donation online or by text, go to: www.maidstoneshelter.org.uk/donate.php.

Food is needed. If you can offer imperishable food, take your tins and packets to: The Salvation Army, 74 – 80 Union Street, Maidstone, ME14 1ED, or telephone 01622681808.

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