Seven churches around Islington host a cold weather shelter for rough sleepers every year from January to March, in partnership with Caris Islington. Our aim is to offer hospitality and a warm welcome to some of the most vulnerable members of our society.
One church hosts the shelter each night of the week, with Barnsbury parish – Church on the Corner, All Saints and St Andrew’s – hosting Sunday nights at All Saints Church [map] on the Caledonian Road.
This is a big project, but one that worthwhile and hugely rewarding.
Last year, the project served more than 2,000 meals throughout the three months to more than 100 people who would otherwise have been spending the night on the street.
Please do get in touch as well if you would like to donate supplies of food, toiletries, clothing or bedding to the project.
Caris Islington can tell you how cash can be donated.
Information for Volunteers
This year, Church on the Corner will staff the first two weeks of the month, KXC the third and St Andrews the fourth.
Each session involves setting up the beds, providing a hot meal which they eat with the guests, and tidying up afterwards. Two volunteers also stay overnight and then a team cooks breakfast and clears up in the morning.
Each homegroup has a shift co-ordinator, who should check early in the week before that they have enough people to cover the evening. There should be a minimum of six people to cover the evening. Groups can invite friends from outside church to help if you can’t cover it themselves. Make sure people know they are committing so will need to be there!!
The week before the session, co-ordinators need to sort out what meal the group is cooking and who’s bringing what. You need to provide a main course and dessert for 15-18 guests and yourselves (think chilli, spag bol, bangers and mash etc). The ovens at All Saints are achingly slow, so it’s best to bring things pre-cooked and reheat them if necessary. You may also need to provide food for breakfast but this will vary weekly – you will be told in advance.
The shift starts at about 6pm when volunteers start preparing food and setting up beds. Doors open at 7.30pm and the meal served at 8pm. Afterwards, volunteers clear up and a short evening prayer is held. You should be done by about 9.30pm.
Eating with the guests is one of the most important parts of the evening, so remember to cater for yourselves!
Two people stay at the shelter overnight in case of problems – they can sleep in shifts but one person should be awake at all times. The doors are shut at 10pm and 11pm is lights out. Caris can always be contacted in case of problems and you have a range of other numbers in the rare event that you need outside help. You will be briefed on the full role if you volunteer for this. The overnighters also start getting breakfast ready in the morning.
The morning team need to arrive by about 7am to start serving breakfasts and clearing up the site. Guests are woken from 7am and have to leave by 9am, by which time All Saints has been restored to a church hall.
The morning team may be asked in advance to bring supplies of eggs, bacon, bread, milk, cereal etc.
- Your responsibilities
You are not required to have had a CRB check to volunteer at the shelter, but you will need to sign to say you have read the volunteer’s handbook, a copy of which will be on site when you arrive for your shift. This tells you what is and isn’t expected of you and contains best practice guidelines.
Please make every effort to turn up if you are down for a shift as it’s a very important witness for us. Howevever, if you find you are unable to make a shift just let know know as soon as possible so a replacement can be found. If possible, arrange a swap with someone else on the rota.
Our role at the shelter is to offer hospitality – we are not there to fix people. What the guests want from us is a hot meal, a safe bed and a warm welcome.
If you think you can offer this please do get involved.