Hope4Havering’s hot meals and beds are homeless lifeline in Havering

Volunteers and clients at the Hope4Havering Christian night shelter in Hornchurch

Volunteers and clients at the Hope4Havering Christian night shelter in Hornchurch - Credit: Archant

Hope 4 Havering’s night shelter takes in up to 24 people each night – reporter Chloe Farand spoke to those who rely on it

It’s a cold and rainy evening, but sheltered from the elements in the Havering Christian Fellowship building, homeless people are coming in for some warm food and a bed.

Hope 4 Havering’s night shelter, run by volunteers, opens every night of the year and is a lifeline for the borough’s homeless.

Roger Burne, 34, who has been relying on the shelter for food, said it was the only place he felt safe.

“A lot of people would be getting ill and into trouble if it wasn’t for this place. If it wasn’t for the people I would struggle.

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“I have never seen an argument here. If someone was to kick off, everyone would support each other to stop it.”

Mr Burne likes to chat with the volunteers who he described as “fantastic”. “They give you hope,” he added.

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In the kitchen, about 10 people were eating the hot sausage casserole volunteer Lester Stone had cooked at home and brought in.

“This place was set up as a B&B but most volunteers cook something to bring in,” he said.

This was a quiet night for the shelter but with the winter months looming, volunteer Lucinda Bradshaw expects it to reach its full capacity of 24 in the coming weeks.

Mrs Bradshaw, from Upminster, has been volunteering for four years and said she never turns people away. She has seen as many as 28 people sleeping in the hall.

“I first came here thinking I would only last a few weeks and I am still here.

“I can’t bear hungry people. I always like doing Christmas Day here, we all have breakfast and someone always provides Christmas dinner.

“We are the cogs of a much bigger machine trying to help them get back on their feet.”

After having had some warm food, people prepare their beds in the hall. Everyone is responsible for setting up their own bedding, provided by the shelter, and putting it away in the morning.

Women sleep separately from the men and a young girl had set up her mattress in a little room.

A couple of people are playing table tennis in the middle of the hall while others read or listen to music.

Lights go off at 11pm and the wake up call is at 7.15am, when people are offered a cup of tea or coffee by the overnight volunteers before they leave.

Justin Ranaldi, who was doing the overnight shift, had planned to sleep on the sofa. He used to come in to the shelter in need of a place to sleep. Now he is a volunteer, he wants “to give something back”.

“There is a lot of preconception about homelessness but it can happen to anyone. Not everyone here has a drug or alcohol problem and there are a lot of married people with families.”

Liz Harvey, who has been a volunteer since the shelter opened in 2011, said 90 per cent of people who come there were made homeless as a result of a relationship breakdown.

“Four years ago, people seemed to be homeless because of problems in their lifestyle, often because of alcohol or drugs. The average age then was about 40, today it’s about 30.”

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