1. ITV Report

Homeless scheme extended

Rough sleepers to get a bed for the night at local churches Photo: ITV Central

A groundbreaking project giving homeless people a bed for a night at city churches looks set to be extended.

Following the success of a month-long pilot, places of worship across Birmingham look set to act as homeless shelters from January to March next year.

Under the ‘Cold Weather Shelter’ scheme, which took place last month, a different church opened its doors each night to provide food and accommodation for ten people.

The Birmingham Diocese took delivery of 60 airbeds and blankets as it prepared for the launch.

Air beds laid out in the church ready for rough sleepers Credit: Thrive Together Birmingham

The project was run in partnership with Thrive – a Church Urban Fund initiative - and the charity, Housing Justice.

Church congregations helped on the nights and cooked meals.

On average, eight of the ten beds were occupied every night.

The helpdesk at St Martin’s in the Bullring spread the word and the Reach Out network provided transport to the different churches involved.

SarahTurner, a development worker with Thrive, said: ”It was really successful. We had more than twenty people staying at the shelters, some for a couple ofweeks, some for one or two nights.

“A variety of different kinds of people used the shelters. We had a Polish man whocame over here for work but had trouble making ends meet.

"He used the shelter for a week and then managed to get a ticket back to Poland so it was a useful stop gap.

“We also had some more long-term rough sleepers who tended to use the shelter to get a good night’s sleep and others who were in the middle of making a claim for benefits and housing.”

Another project worker from Thrive, Pat Hoskins, described the initiative as a resounding success.

“We had a few teething problems at the beginning, such as getting the word outthere, but there was no trouble.

“Those we helped were more than appreciative and we were over-subscribed with volunteers.”

Geoff, one of the rough sleepers, who came for a bed and a meal said:"I had a great time staying at the shelter.

"They helped me through what would have been a more difficult time without them."

At St George’s church in Newtown,one of five churches involved, beds were placed in the church building itself.

TheRev Larry Wright and curate Rev Dr Anne Hinks co-ordinating the evenings, were helped by 22 volunteers.

The Rev Wright said: “An eight-year-old girl even offered to help with the cleaning. People want to respond with compassion to the challenge.

“Thisis practical Christian love in action.”