The beast from the east has passed by but this next weekend may see further cold and snow. As you probably know, Hope has been running the SWEP emergency cold weather shelter, opening up the day centre overnight and during the very cold spell, even opening in the day for an extra four hours. This meant we were open 20 hrs a day for four days.
This has been a considerable pressure for us, and we have all worked very hard over this time to create a warm and welcoming environment for people who are really cold and in need. This welcome is what we do. We don’t turn people away. We saw 34 people on one night, and we had people going out, doing compassionate outreach to encourage people in. Even so, we know the names of a further ten or so who did not come in. With the number in the Council Night shelter (between 8 and 12 most nights), we can state with unarguable evidence behind it that there are 60 rough sleepers in our town. Their need, and that of other homeless people is starkly illustrated by the figure of six deaths amongst homeless people since 22/12/17, through accidents, overdoses and other causes. Unless we offer care, they die.
We got a lot of help – from community members, from volunteers, from staff who gave up their time – people were calling in with coats and food. It was quite moving. We shared this widely in the media, who just kept calling, including national media as well as regional and local.
This is what Hope is: a catalyst for community action, a self-help charity where people look after their own, protecting those people, who just like themselves on another day, could be in the shelter. We all work together, and look after everyone in our community in need.
This will be the voluntary sector in the future, as government withers away, grants are gone, and the state no longer concerns itself with the poor and needy. Sadly Northamptonshire faces challenging times repairing its image, given County Council bankruptcy and hospitals in trouble. I’d like to think that the collective community effort shown during SWEP suggests that whatever happens in statutory bodies, this effort demonstrates that ordinary people and the wider community have compassion, commitment and duty towards those in need.