On a chilly Tuesday night in February Dr Rupa Huq and Hitesh Tailor, Labour's councillor for East Acton, visited a night shelter hosted by St Dunstan's Church in Acton. A number of Ealing Churches work together providing Winter Night Shelters (ECWNS) for homeless people throughout the borough.
They heard about the enormous risks rough sleepers face: substance abuse, poor physical and mental health, and acts of criminality. ECWNS volunteers hope to create a safe environment where service users can get rest, shelter and access to help and advice from partner agencies, St. Mungo’s Broadway, Ealing Soup Kitchen and Acton Homeless Concern. The hope is that they will engage with local housing services and find a way out of homelessness.
ECWNS offer a temporary accommodation service for 14 at risk individuals, which runs from mid November to the end of March, it is accessed via referral. On average people stay for about a month before moving on, they hope to more permanent housing.
Alison Wood, ECWNS Project Coordinator, told Rupa that they are limited to low risk clients as they are all amateurs. Alison said:
"The shelter is almost always full, and we keep a waiting list. This year is fairly similar to last. There is a need for more affordable private rented accommodation, more support for people with mental health problems. I'm very keen to get the churches involved in providing accommodation and community support.
Beatrice Orchard, the public affairs coordinator at St Mungo's Broadway, said:
"The overall total number of people seen rough sleeping by outreach teams in Ealing between April 2013 and March 2014 was 248. This represents a 2% increase when compared to 2012/13."
"The work of Ealing Churches Winter Night Shelter is magnificent and the time, energy and kindness with which their volunteers help the homeless community is remarkable.
It is scandalous that in 2015 there are still people sleeping on the streets in the borough of Ealing, once known as the 'queen of the suburbs'. The next Labour government will take steps to tackle homelessness. We will repeal the bedroom tax and commit to building 200,000 new homes a year by 2020. As opposed to Cameron and Osbourne, who have put tax cuts for millionaires first."