Winter sanctuary for Gravesham homeless launches for fifth year

PUBLISHED: 07:00 25 September 2019

Mayor of Gravesham Cllr Gurdip Bungar officially opens the homeless sanctuary for this year. Picture: Gravesham Council

Mayor of Gravesham Cllr Gurdip Bungar officially opens the homeless sanctuary for this year. Picture: Gravesham Council


A safe place for homeless people to take shelter in during the harsh winter months has been opened once more.

The sanctuary's smart new kitchen. Picture: Gravesham CouncilThe sanctuary's smart new kitchen. Picture: Gravesham Council

The seasonal facilities have been running for four years.

Gravesham Sanctuary, a charity providing a night shelter for homeless people in the borough, has launched the Friends of Gravesham Sanctuary, known as FOGS, for individuals, business and churches as the shelter prepares for the winter.

It was established in 2015 as a response to the needs of homeless people living in the borough, but its exact location is not being publicised.

Founded by City Praise Centre and Gravesend Methodist Church, it became an independent charity this year.

On Friday, September 20, the Mayor of Gravesham Cllr Gurdip Bungar officially opened the building, which has been refurbished with the help of local businesses ahead of the coming winter.

Michael Coveney, of Gravesham Sanctuary, said: "Our mission remains the same - to be the first point of contact for homeless people and providing for their immediate needs; the provision of a night shelter during the winter months; and signposting homeless people to the appropriate agencies who can help their situation."

Gravesham Sanctuary works in conjunction with Gravesham Borough Council, Gravesend Methodist Church which runs a daytime community hub, and with Churches Together in Gravesham which provides many of the volunteers.

The aim is to provide a night shelter seven nights a week for six months from October 21, which will require a great deal more support than is available at present, hence the Friends of Gravesham Sanctuary programme.

A friend is an individual, church or local organisation that is committed to supporting the mission of Gravesham Sanctuary.

This can be done in a number of ways, including making a regular financial contribution, or raising funds through events.

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They can also take responsibility for supplying specific items, such as food or capital equipment as requested by Gravesham Sanctuary project manager, or committing to volunteer on a regular basis to the running of the night shelter and its associated activities.

A Friend can also be a vocal ambassador in promoting what it does and even recruit more supporters.

Mr Coveney added: "You do not have to be a friend to do any of these, it's just that a friend becomes a recognised supporter of what we do."

Since 2015, Gravesham Sanctuary, along with Gravesend Methodist Church, has supported more than 800 individual guests, with the night shelter operating between December and the end of March each year. It is now planned to make the night shelter available for six months, provided enough volunteers can be found.

A big step forward in making this a reality was the building provided by Gravesham Borough Council for this purpose.

Cllr John Burden, Leader of Gravesham Borough Council, said: "We are only too pleased to support Gravesham Sanctuary.

"Working to tackle the issue of rough sleeping and homelessness in the borough was a key part of our manifesto at the last elections and has received cross-party support, highlighting a unity of purpose from the council to put in place practical measures of support such as Gravesham Sanctuary."

Joinery company Howdens is a friend that supplied the kitchen so hot meals could be provided over the winter period.

Others include Breyer Group which provided two electricians for two days to assist with the electrical upgrade works; PA Group completed specialist works in relation to asbestos; Chalk Plumbing who supplied two shower trays; Triton who supplied electric showers; and Grafton's for materials.

Cllr Jenny Wallace, Gravesham Borough Council cabinet member for housing services, said: "With the council having provided the venue and agreeing to pay for the utilities, it is so encouraging that so many local businesses have joined us to get Gravesham Sanctuary to a position where we can support homeless people throughout the borough this winter."

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