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Sanctuary homeless shelter in Gravesend offers a warm bed and a community spirit

By Nick Lillitos

A night sanctuary for the homeless has dealt with more than 200 visits since it opened about eight weeks ago.

And with temperatures expected to fall, the team of volunteers in Gravesend are braced for demand to increase.

Project manager Stephen Nolan said: “Our guests are really appreciative and always give you a hug. It gives us a tremendous sense of fulfilment.

“As the nights continue to get colder we’re seeing an increased number of people who have been sleeping rough on the streets.”

Glen Selves is a beneficiary of the homeless night shelter

Glen Selves is a beneficiary of the homeless night shelter

Some 90% of those coming in are male. A report by Gravesham council, which investigated rough sleepers in the borough, concluded up to 10 people were on the town’s streets at night.

Aptly called the Sanctuary, the volunteers operate from a community centre in Wilfred Street, at the back of the Methodist church in Milton Street.

The team consists of some 120 volunteers, with Mr Nolan and his wife Lorna at the helm.

It was set up by the City Praise Centre, a church that runs out of the Woodville theatre, working in partnership with the Methodist church and Churches Together in Gravesham.

It is open Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, with the homeless offered a shower, a hot meal, advice and access to a laundry service, including survival skills, ranging from how to keep warm to staying safe.

Volunteers at the Sanctuary night shelter

Volunteers at the Sanctuary night shelter

“In such a short space of time we’re building a community with these guys, helping them with documentation and access to other agencies,” said Mr Nolan.

“Although we have 130 volunteers we do need more to accommodate the availability of shift work.

“Our busiest time is between 6pm and 10.30pm, so it’s a bit of a juggling act. You can never have enough volunteers.

“It would be most helpful to have people skilled in first aid and cooking.”

Tom Griffiths, a minister at the City Praise Centre, said: “Some visitors will be sofa-surfing and some will be sleeping in their cars in Gravesham. It’s a real mix.”

For more details, call the City Praise Centre on 01474 356773.

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