Last Tuesday 7th January we opened our parish hall doors to our guests for the very first time. We were able to provide our guests with a welcoming hot drink, biscuits, hot food, shelter, and a smile. On Wednesday morning, our guests left after a decent breakfast. Due to the amazing amount of good quality clothing and new items, such as underpants, socks, hats, shoes and toiletries donated by the community, we also sent our guests on their way with a much needed care package.

Thanks to the financial support from our Aviva Community Fund crowdfund supporters and Aviva employees, we were able to purchase a dedicated warming oven, hotplates, new dishwasher and oven in time for the opening of the shelter, as well as room dividers, sleeping bags and a host of other items. We also installed a new key fire safety system – essential in order to accommodate overnight guests.

We have joined forces with the Forest Churches Emergency Night Shelters (FCENS) to run this shelter. Part of a rolling winter night shelter operating across more than seven local churches, the shelter will run every Tuesday night until the end of March. Over 40 local people are on our volunteer rota, serving dinner and breakfast and welcoming up to 40 guests with up to 30 men and women able to be accommodated overnight.

We have also had amazing support in the form of donations of food and clothing via our Reverse Advent Calendar, and donations from our Christmas services. Special thanks go to Lizi Arnold at The Cuckfield and John Wagstaff at Petty Son & Prestwich, who turned their premises into mini warehouses, acting as a central collection point for food and clothing.
Wanstead Parish considers it a privilege to be running this shelter once a week during the winter months. We see it as being part of our Christian duty to home the homeless, feed the hungry and clothe the naked. We would like to thank so many members of our wider community for helping us to offer this important community resource.