Plea to help the homeless
All of us have had to look out the winter coat these past couple of weeks as the temperature has dropped to remind us winter is approaching.
For the small number of people who are sleeping rough in our communities the freezing conditions are life-threatening.
Last year the Elim Connect Centre in Wells, in partnership with Shepton Mallet Salvation Army and Mendip District Council, ran an emergency cold weather shelter based in Shepton Mallet on the nights when the weather was predicted to drop below freezing for three consecutive nights.
It provided a place of warmth and safety to both new and entrenched rough sleepers from across Mendip.
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Men and women, young and old were referred by the police, the Citizens Advice Bureau, GPs, Mendip and the Elim Connect Centre's Street Level Access Programme which is currently engaging with all known rough sleepers across the district.
The numbers of people rough sleeping increased by 23 per cent last year in the UK, many of whom are new to the streets.
With the effects of economic woes still hitting people hard, many homeless agencies are expecting the numbers to continue to increase.
This year all three organisations in the partnership would like to provide the same service providing an essential life-line to those who are facing the worst affects of a British winter.
This year an appeal is being made for anyone who would like to get involved in making this essential service happen. You don't necessarily need any experience, just a willingness to make a cup of tea and chat.
Elim's centre and project leader, Thomas Fowler, said: "This is a community project and was only successful last year because of a team of dedicated volunteers who were willing to give up one or two nights over the winter to sleep on a camp bed at the Salvation Army centre.
"Of those local people involved last year many had a brilliant time meeting new people and engaging with what is often a hidden and complex problem.
"The majority of rough sleepers who use the service are very grateful and enjoy a good night's sleep enabling the volunteers to get a good few hours sleep too. The team are also looking for drivers who can transport people from the four other Mendip towns."
If you or a group you are involved in would be interested in supporting the Emergency Cold Weather Shelter, nicknamed Minus Zero°, contact the Elim Connect Centre on 01749 677097 or wmail info@con nect-centre.org.uk to express your interest.
Full training and supervision will be provided.
More information can be found at www.connect-centre.org.uk.