Blessing for King's Lynn Winter Night Shelter as it officially opens in new location
Lynn’s homeless shelter received a blessing as it was officially opened in its new location for the winter season.
The Bishop of Lynn, the Right Reverend Jonathan Meyrick blessed the Winter Night Shelter at St John’s Vicarage on Wednesday.
Among those also in attendance were West Norfolk mayor Geoff Hipperson, North West Norfolk MP James Wild and the High Sheriff of Norfolk Lady Georgina Roberts, as an annual general meeting took place alongside the official opening.
The bishop said: “Lord be the shelter of all who stay here, their companion when they go, and our welcome guest when you come to our door.”
Shelter staff and volunteers welcomed the visitors to look around the new building on a one-way route.
The night shelter will be open every night of the winter from November to March, offering an evening meal and a safe place to sleep for homeless guests.
Renovation work is almost complete at the St John’s Vicarage site and the shelter will be following government advice on caring for the homeless during the Covid-19 crisis and any necessary restrictions are part of the planning.
Co-ordinator Lucy McKitterick said: “The Government guidelines for operating night shelters during this Covid-19 winter were released only on October 13 so a lot of our planning around operational matters has had to be pushed into these last few days.
“Again we are grateful to the borough council, to Public Health and national homelessness charity Housing Justice for their work with us during the summer to ensure we were as far ahead as possible when the guidelines were released.
“The night shelter will look a bit different this year - not least because it’s moved house – but the warmth of welcome, care and support for our guests, and unconditional positive regard for the homeless as individuals will be the same.
“And it’s important to say that Covid safety procedures are not always bad news. We will for example have a much more focussed approach with partner agencies this year to help guests move on to accommodation of their own and make room for others here."
The guests will have more space than in previous years at the former St Ann's Fort site.
Miss McKitterick expressed her gratitude to the Diocese of Norwich for leasing the building to the night shelter, as well as thanking the community for their continued support.
North West Norfolk MP James Wild said: “With winter around the corner I was pleased to join Lucy McKitterick for the night shelter’s annual meeting and the blessing of its new home.
“Although Covid-19 will affect how the night shelter can operate this year, it will once again provide immediate support and a safe place to sleep for those most in need.
“Combined with new funding for longer term accommodation, this is all part of West Norfolk’s efforts to support the Government’s commitment to eradicate rough sleeping.”
Father Adrian Ling, chair of the trustees at the night shelter, said capacity is much reduced as reducing the risk of transmission is paramount.
He told this week's meeting: "If there is one person sleeping on the streets of Lynn this winter, then we are going backwards. We must not let that happen.
"We that hope our guests’ stays will be shorter, and that they will be swiftly moved on, but while they are with us, they will be well looked after thanks to the wide supportive community that enables the King’s Lynn Winter Night Shelter to function and flourish.
"Homelessness is complicated. Those who are homeless cannot always be easily helped. We need the immediate help that the shelter can offer to help those who have suffered misfortunes in life. We are extremely concerned about this winter as all of the factors that can lead to homelessness have been multiplied by the pandemic and the lockdown."