A night shelter in Leamington that has supported hundreds of people is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
Over 10 years the Leamington Night Shelter, which is based at Radford Road Church, has helped 2,358 vulnerable people. This includes regular visitors and new visitors and of this figure, 532 people were rough sleepers.
From February 2009 to December 2018 the team at the shelter served a total of 23,660 meals to visitors.
Chris Johnson and Margaret Moore knew that Leamington had a homelessness issue but they had to convince others of the scale of the problem.
After fighting their case they opened their doors to rough sleepers for the first time at Bath Place Community Venture on February 15 2009.
Following a fire in September 2009, the shelter was moved to Radford Road Church and opens every Wednesday and Sunday night.
After nearly a decade at the helm, Chris retired from his role at the night shelter at the end of last year.
On February 15, 10 years to the day that the shelter first opened, a celebration was held at St Peter’s Conference Centre where more than 70 people attended, including supporters, volunteers and Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western.
Margaret said: “On our 10th anniversary we were very pleased to honour Chris by designating him the ambassador for the night shelter.
“We also thanked the people who had helped us over the years, in particular the Radford Road Church, as we could not operate without their help. We also thanked our volunteers as we could not do this without them.
“We have seen an increased amount of need since we began 10 years ago.
“When we began we did not know how it would pan out. We have been totally amazed, both at the realisation that people are so kind and want to help, but also about how the people who come to the shelter cope with their situations.
“Sometimes it is not just about providing somewhere for them to live, but helping them with many different issues. When we began there was no emergency accommodation where people could just turn up. Now there are a few more organisations that can help, but also too the demand for help is greater.
“The economic situation does not help. It is difficult to find somewhere to live, food banks have been going for a few years now and the changes to the benefit system has meant that many people are struggling, all of these points has meant it is more difficult for people to survive from week to week.”
MP Matt Western said: “It was an honour to be involved in Leamington Night Shelter’s 10th anniversary celebrations. Through their hard work and compassion, Margaret Moore and Chris Johnson have provided vital support to the hundreds of vulnerable people they’ve welcomed through their doors.
“Of course, none of this could have been done without the shelter’s dedicated volunteers, who selflessly commit their time every week.
“Until recently, there were shockingly no council funded night shelters in Leamington, meaning the work of organisations like Leamington Night Shelter has been absolutely vital.
“Going forward, the council urgently needs to set out an increased long-term funding plan for temporary accommodation and commit to building enough social homes to meet the local demand.”