With volunteers at St Helen
With volunteers at St Helen's Night Shelter

I have contributed to debates in Parliament over the issue of homelessness and, last month I highlighted the conclusions of a Wales Audit Office Report, which stated its belief that welfare cuts are having a detrimental impact on homelessness in Wales.

There is no emergency accommodation provision for rough sleepers in Caerphilly, but each year local churches come together to offer safety and refuge for those who do not have the option of temporary, or permanent accommodation. A vital part of the Council’s cold weather plan for rough sleepers is the Caerphilly Churches Night Shelter project.

The project, now in its sixth year, opens from December to March, bringing together nine churches and a team of volunteers to provide overnight shelter, hot meals, essential support and advice to the homeless during the most difficult, often coldest months of the year.

Rough sleepers are often those who find themselves homeless or threatened with homelessness, who are not automatically owed a duty of housing under homeless legislation in Wales.

The Shelter provides bedding and toiletries, a hot evening meal, and breakfast in the morning, and transport for the following night if needed.

On 28 January Councillor Lisa Phipps, Caerphilly County Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Homes and Places, spent an evening with the night shelter volunteers, and I was pleased to be able to visit the centre for that night, at St Helen’s Roman Catholic Church in Caerphilly, to meet with the volunteers.

The project is supported by, and run in conjunction with Caerphilly County Borough Council’s Housing Advice Team, and Cornerstone Support Services Ltd.

The shelter, which is rotated around the participating churches, is not a drop in facility, and can be accessed on a referral basis only. The referral form can be found online under the “Homeless or at risk” section at http://www.caerphilly.gov.uk/housing, or by calling the Housing Advice Centre on 01443 783552.

Whilst the shelter will be closed from 1 March, there is little doubt that this invaluable support offered by the volunteers will be needed in future years, and I want to pay thanks to these dedicated and hardworking volunteers who are willing to give up their time to help some of the most vulnerable in our society.

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