Milton Keynes homeless shelter project in jeopardy as charity urges more volunteers to come forward

Demand for the shelter has never been higher, but organisers fear they mightn't even be able to open without more community support

By James Lowson
Wednesday, 17th November 2021, 10:01 am
Updated Wednesday, 17th November 2021, 1:03 pm

The opening of a Milton Keynes winter shelter supporting rough sleepers is in jeopardy, due to a lack of confirmed volunteers.

Charity, Winter Night Shelter is placing an urgent plea, asking more members of the Milton Keynes community to help out.

The charity says demand for the shelter has never been higher and the organisation will be at full capacity from day one, if it can open.

Volunteers from the charity recently complete a 'Big Sleep Out' for homeless causes

Each year the charity helps get people off the streets at a time when the weather is unforgiving and dangerous.

Winter Night Shelter has access to Unity Park Station which used to be Milton Keynes bus station, but cannot open without more contributors.

Among the ways it looks to help people is by running an evening cafe to offer those in need a meal and place to sleep.

People are put up at churches and community centres, before being welcomed back to Unity Park Station in the morning to use the showers, have breakfast and

Some members of the current volunteer team

access their lockers.

This system relies on an army of volunteers, but this year the charity has found it difficult to raise the kind of support it relies on.

Sara Millington, senior communications manager for the charity, said: “We usually manage to recruit and train all our volunteers and then launch the shelter service to rough sleepers, at which point the bed spaces gradually fill up.

"This winter is back-to-front: we have a full complement of rough sleepers awaiting beds but haven’t yet had sufficient volunteers step forward to enable us to open the shelter.

More members of the Milton Keynes community helping out

"For every night we can’t open our doors there will be 15 people sleeping rough in the cold. We are calling on the good people of Milton Keynes to play their part and volunteer for one

of the many roles we have available.”

Former guests can attest to the good work the charity does, such as Anne-Marie who said: “I had nowhere else to go and was on the edge, and couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I had a decent job, a house and everything, but you can’t predict what life will throw at you. I never dreamt I’d end up sleeping in a supermarket car park.”

Anne-Marie who used the shelter in 2020, has since found long term accommodation and is now receiving consistent mental health support.

The charity advises people can help out by committing just a few hours every week. Adding that volunteers can contribute in locations and at times that suit them.

Roles include: setting up and making beds, meet and greeting, drinks preparation, cooking and kitchen help, food service, night duty, cleaning, packing down, laundry and more.

A Winter Night Shelter spokesperson advises: "We have daily volunteer opportunities available in our evening reception café (at Unity Park Station in Central Milton Keynes), in the overnight venues (in Wolverton, Bletchley, Coffee Hall and Newport Pagnell) and in the morning welcome service (at Unity Park Station)."

Details of volunteer roles and shifts can be found on the charity’s website and the registration forms that are also on there: https://www.winternightsheltermk.org/volunteer/