About Us & Meet The Team
The Ashford Churches Winter Night Shelter (ACWNS) began as a response to a request to Churches Together in Ashford (CTA) from Ashford Borough Council in October 2015. After extensive research, a pilot shelter was run for six weeks commencing January 2016. This was run in its entirety by volunteers.
The pilot shelter went well and involved 7 separate churches each contributing premises and volunteers.
Based on this experience a 12-week winter shelter was planned and run from December 2016 until March 2017. This augmented the work going on in many of the churches all year round: foodbank, meals, street pastoring and drop in clubs to name but a few.
Working in partnership with other organisations, who meet regularly at a Rough Sleepers Forum run by Ashford Borough Council, allowed us to work with dedicated people with the same vision and remit to help disadvantaged people. The winter shelter became a small part of a much larger network and the only one to restrict admittance to homeless people over 18 years of age. Without these partnerships we would not have been able to continue with a further shelter in December 2017 until March 2018.
ACWNS is run by Ashford Churches Together as a joint project with support of all the churches involved, whether by use of premises, volunteers, prayer or financial support. Whilst it does not discriminate the use of the shelter by anyone in need, nor rely solely on volunteering from the church congregations, it is a Christian outreach and our belief in a loving and benevolent God is at the heart of its purpose and it relies on this for its provision and continued service to the homeless community.
The 2018/2019 winter shelter has built on the experiences of previous shelters as well as the vast knowledge shared by other church winter shelters who comprise the Kent Shelter Network. Our training and guidance follow the winter shelter approach adopted by Housing Justice, who have been an immense support and example to us.
We registered as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation with the Charities Commission on the 12th October 2018 under the Ashford Together umbrella. (Charity Registration Number 1180283). Primarily this is to enable us to take advantage of a charity status for funding purposes but, equally importantly, to continue to grow in response to the growing housing crisis. We recognise there is no single answer, just as there is no one reason for homelessness. We need to be responsive to changes in society, in local and central government initiatives, to a growing disillusionment with the status quo and a need to become community again. This includes everyone and excludes no-one on the basis of prejudice, perception or need. We need to do more in Ashford and we fully intend to.
Our initial pilot offered 10 beds per night, this season we are able to offer 17 spaces. Last year we had several nights when we went over capacity to respond to the need. The guests equipment is loaded on to our van and taken to the next venue ready to await their arrival. Guests help the volunteers, set up their own beds and have a new sleeping bag, sheets, pillow and pillow case and blanket. Toiletries are good quality and issued in a nice toilet bag – we do everything we can to treat our guests as human beings, something they might indeed have forgotten.
Our guests eat together with volunteers, which encourages sharing and promotes the idea of being a guest NOT a statistic. We use nice cutlery and crockery, mugs not plastic cups – as a homeless person said “plastic reinforces the idea that we will be thrown away”. Sleeping arrangements are on the basis of gender and we do not provide couple accomodation. Our principles are to value and respect our guests, to offer a warm, safe place where noone judges.
MEET THE TEAM
Hi, I'm Ian, and it is my great privilege to oversee the Winter Night Shelter on behalf of the Churches Together in Ashford. I have a background in community healthcare before I entered in to full time ministry as a youth Pastor here in Ashford. I am now associate Pastor at Ashford Christian Fellowship where I head up our social outreach projects which very much connect with many of the guests that we see at the Night Shelter. I love the way that this project brings not only the churches together, but also the Council, agencies, businesses and volunteers – representing us town, to care for the most vulnerable in our community.
After serving as a Metropolitan police officer and then a secondary school teacher I realized that I had a passion for working alongside people who were disadvantaged. I trained in rehabilitation at BASTA in Sweden and used this experience to lead an EU project in Kent introducing the Scandinavian principles in changing lives. I was involved in setting up an Outreach Centre in Dover before coordinating the Ashford Winter Shelter for the last two seasons. I am a Christian following my beliefs in the winter shelter to come alongside people and help them as they turn around the disadvantages that led to them to sleep rough. I gain far more than I could ever give when someone starts to believe that all is not lost, and the future really can be different with support, unconditional love and encouragement.
Semi-retired, so the assumption in Rev. Ian's opinion was, he's got a lot of time on his hands, so let's fill it! So, started volunteering in 2016 and managed to behave responsibly enough to be offered the position of carer to the owner of the Golden Chariot. Job done, mostly, and now I'm back in a slightly different role where I have to behave even more responsibly! It is a privilege to serve God and his people and I would like to see more of these less fortunate people, discipled and mentored, beyond the parameters of the WNS to a point where they can be truly independent
I am the Missioner for the Parish of Ashford Town, the Church of England Parish that covers the whole of urban Ashford. My role is to try and engage every member of our church in mission, be that in a project run by the church or by encouraging them in their own encounters with other people. Last year I was involved in the night shelter at St Francis and this year have been asked to sit on the core team. I am really looking forward to mobilising volunteers and raising the profile of the shelter further across the Town.
I have had a very varied and happy life. I grew up in a large family where money and possessions were limited. everything we had had to be shared with family, friends, neighbours and at times complete strangers. My parents were welcoming and so the family became extended, This gave me deep rooted values about caring for others.
I have always worked within customer services, spending 21 years working for Eurostar as a Team Manager in the Contact Centre; again this enabled me to care for my colleagues and to try always to assist customers. Through this, I learnt patience and understanding. In my later years I became an alcoholic, having retired on a good pension. I had, over the years drifted away from the church and my beliefs. At my lowest point God reached out and drew me back into his loving arms. I began attending AV. Gratitude plays a great part in my recovery. It is gratitude and thankfulness that I am able to support the Winter Night Shelter. It is a privilege and blessing to be able to sit alongside my homeless family and extend Gods' Grace, Mercy and Love toward them. I want each person that enters our doors to feel loved, valued and cared for. It is my hope and prayers that this year, more lives will be touched and turned to gold.
Howdy, my name is Ben and I am a member of the core team for the 2018/19 Night Shelter. I am currently employed by the Salvation Army as part of the Community Mission team. My role is to facilitate sessions and events to support those in need.
My role within the Night Shelter is to facilitate logistical things regarding the day to Day food supplies and the transporting of luggage and clothing. My hope and desire for the night Shelter is that those who use the shelter will feel they can come to feel safe and feel empowered to aim to find a house to live in