Night shelter’s plea for help

Atherton and Leigh Night Shelter Project Leader Warren Done
Atherton and Leigh Night Shelter Project Leader Warren Done

A life-saving charity providing beds and hot food for homeless people in winter is desperately appealing for a new building to continue its work.

Atherton and Leigh Night Shelter Project is currently without a permanent venue after the former church on Tyldesley Road it used last year was sold.

Although Wigan Council has met night shelter bosses to discuss the situation no suitable base has been found so far and project founder Warren Done is asking anyone who knows of an available building to come forward urgently.

The night shelter helped more than 80 people last year and opened for a month longer than intended to cope with the demand for overnight accommodation as temperatures plunged, and Warren says he expects even more people to require help this year.

He said: “We’re appealing for any business or anyone who knows of a building which is empty and could be used to help people to get in touch.

“In the winter the shelter could make the difference between somebody surviving and dying on the streets because it is too cold.

“We’re expecting a bigger problem this year. One of the biggest causes of homelessness is relationship breakdown but there have also been housing benefit reductions for people aged 18 to 35 and that could mean people losing their home.”

The shelter has steadily expanded its work since being founded, with the facility opening for four nights a week over nearly four months compared to the operation’s two nights a week for eight weeks in its first year.

Homeless service users, who are referred to the night shelter by partner agencies, can get into the building from around 7.30pm and receive a hot meal and somewhere to sleep for the night before getting breakfast and heading out again at 8am.

Warren says the social aspect of the shelter, as somewhere people can relax and talk to each other, is as important as the more immediate needs for food and shelter which it meets.

He said: “People said to us that one of the most important things for them was the conversation. You don’t get that sleeping with one eye open somewhere.

“A lot of the referral agencies reported back to us saying that once we got them a good night’s sleep and something to eat they were more alert to go to them and get help to sort their lives out, rather than missing appointments because they hadn’t slept properly.”

Warren says that once the shelter has a building for this year he would like to make the project full time, if enough volunteers can be found.

The Atherton and Leigh facility was set up with the help of Manchester-based concern Narrowgate, which is setting up places to help homeless people in communities across the region to avoid anyone having to travel long distances to get help.

To find out more about the project, visit https://athertonleigh.foodbank.org.uk