Churches give Horsham’s homeless a winter roof over their heads

The Horsham churches have once again come together this year to run the town’s Winter Night Shelter.

Every night of the week a different church in the town takes its turn to cook and share a meal with homeless guests and give them a warm and safe place to stay at night.

It started on November 17 and is running 12 weeks until March next year. They have so far helped eight people - six men and two women - who stayed one night or more.

Guests of the night shelter have to be referred by partners including the council, social services, police or the ARK Horsham homelessness charity.

Co-ordinator Rachel Larkin said: “People need to have a Horsham connection. It’s not as firm and fast as the council’s. They can have an ex-partner or work in Horsham.

“There’s a massive need in Horsham; it’s just hidden.”

Research has shown anyone is just two pay packets away from being homeless. An unpaid bill, job loss, relationship breakdowns can force someone onto the streets.

Volunteer Joy Dale said: “I did realise it could be anyone, but I’m surprised at how clever people are - how well educated people are. It’s not people who haven’t got an education that are homeless.”

Rachel added: “It’s if you lose hope for whatever reason. I remember one man (not in Horsham) whose baby had died and he couldn’t cope. He started drinking and was scared to go back. He had been on the streets five years when I met him.”

The project has transformed lives in past years.

Rachel said: “Last year we had two guys who were working and saved up to get a deposit for a flat. Also last year ARK (Horsham charity) were our main referrers and the good thing is, this year, a lot of people who were in ARK are no longer in need.”

It has also brought together about 150 volunteers from the town’s churches. They are carrying out tasks ranging from cooking and hosting on the night to doing the laundry and transporting bedding between venues.

Rachel said: “I find it brilliant that we have all got different doctrines, but we have all come together on a common ground: that this is not right that the people of Horsham have to be on the street.”

Joy added: “It’s really good for the churches to come together.

“It’s what churches should be doing. It’s what Jesus would be doing. When Jesus was on the earth, he was helping people.

“If he was on the earth now, he would be in this night shelter.”