In 2010 the Kingdom Way Trust’s founder, David Barratt, volunteered for a programme providing meals for Eastbourne’s rough sleepers on Saturday evenings. One evening as he said “Goodnight” to guests as they left, it struck him that, for many of them, it wasn’t going to be a good night at all. He felt something needed to be done for the long-term prospects of these men and women. No-one in Eastbourne should be homeless, especially in the winter, he concluded.
David had recently become a Christian after an encounter with Jesus at the age of 59. He was challenged as he read his bible and in particular Jesus’ statement in the gospel of Matthew chapter 25:
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in”.
He began talking to people in Eastbourne’s church community. The idea that the town should offer a temporary night shelter scheme gathered support. Churches in the town centre were approached and within months seven had signed up to offer their halls – amazingly - each on a different night of the week. In 2011 the Winter Night Shelter was born, offering hot food and a friendly, safe place to stay overnight.
Since then, several churches, mostly from the town centre, have offered their halls. Over the years more than 700 volunteers from about 40 churches across Eastbourne have got involved in a variety of roles: including cooking, setting up beds, chatting to and listening to guests and staffing the halls overnight. They have staffed more than 2,000 shifts during 823 nights giving approximately 50,000 hours of their time.
Watch our video about the work of the Winter Night Shelter here.
Covid changed the way the Winter Night Shelter was able to operate from 2019. On the advice of authorities and health professionals, dormitory-style winter night shelter accommodation was not able to be offered, as they had done for the previous nine years. Volunteers and staff continued to support rough sleepers who were provided temporary accommodation through the Rough Sleeping Initiative.
During the winter of 2022-23 a limited number of emergency rooms were offered to rough sleepers in shared flats from January to April. Volunteers from local churches continued to provide meals and friendship to the guests. Support staff worked with each person to help them access longer term accommodation as well as addressing other issues that they required support with. 13 guests were provided with rooms and support. Over 80% moved on to more stable housing.