Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Hopes for first West Midlands winter shelter

February 10 2011
There is obviously a desperate need for a winter night shelter in Cannock, says spokesperson of planning committee

Plans for a winter night shelter for homeless people in Cannock are underway after December 2010 witnessed severe weather conditions, with snow and temperatures as low as -10°.

Pat Wolfe, Co-ordinator of the Cannock Chase Winter Night Shelter Committee, said: "Since 2008, we have been trying to set up a pilot scheme to offer a much-needed winter night shelter for people sleeping rough in Cannock. The main problem is premises. We asked Cannock Chase District Council for help; they offered us a grant of £500 through their Members Initiative Scheme and will support us if we can find premises for the shelter. Sadly, we have been unable to, and the grant has been withheld. We have until 31 March 2011 to spend the money or we will lose this funding."

Cannock Chase District Council undertook a homelessness review in 2009-2010. In a sample of 50 housing options enquiry sheets, where people are asked where they slept the previous evening, 11 people were sleeping rough, eight were sofa-surfing with friends, 13 were living with family members, two had caravans, two were in B&B accommodation and one was in police custody.

Mrs Wolfe added: "Cannock is the 16th most deprived area in the country. We asked 'Churches Together' to take responsibility and help us. There is nowhere else for us to go - they are our only hope. The eight ministers who look after 15 churches in Cannock will discuss this matter with their church committee groups to see how they can help and will reconvene on 26 January."

Mrs Wolfe began helping Cannock's homeless people after securing a grant from 'Community Championing Funding' to set up a Portakabin in a car park in Cannock serving sandwiches and hot drinks four days a week. The Methodist Church offered lunch one day a week. This became a regular voluntary feature for service users, was taken over by the charity Cannock Lions Club People in Need and is still in operation.

Mrs Wolfe said: "We feel more optimistic since attending the Housing Justice's Shelter Pack meeting - it was a breath of fresh air. The shelter pack was comprehensive."

Retired social worker Dennis Spencer is a trustee of Cannock Chase Winter Night Shelter Committee and a member of Pye Green Christian Centre, which works closely with local homeless people. He said: "We use three houses in Cannock offering accommodation to homeless people and help to rehabilitate them. In the last 18 months we have seen 25 homeless people, we accommodated 20 of them. All were male and some were hard-drug users. Sixty-five per cent had a criminal record, but while we supported them, only 15 per cent of them re-offended. There is obviously a desperate need for a winter night shelter in Cannock, and it seems the worst affected are single men."