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King's Lynn Night Shelter launches appeal after Government turns down cash bid

Lynn Night Shelter has launched a crowdfunding appeal after the Government turned down its bid for vital money.

The shelter, which has already postponed its planned re-opening after the summer break until the start of November due to lack of funds, is in urgent need of money if it is to continue supporting homeless people who may otherwise be sleeping rough.

Options appear to be running out after the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) rejected an application for £100,000 from its Night Shelter Transformation Fund.

Lynn Night Shelter
Lynn Night Shelter

A further bid for a grant from West Norfolk Council also failed, with the council stating the shelter did not currently meet the necessary criteria to receive public funding from the authority.

The shelter is a charity set up by Churches Together in 2017 and receives no regular public funding, having previously relied on donations, one-off grants from the government and borough council, and housing benefit claimed by guests during their stay.

Lucy McKitterick, shelter manager, said: “The crowdfunding appeal is critical to meet the costs of opening.

“Much of our funding for the winter, including other grants, and income from housing benefit, is dependent on our being operational – we are needing help to open so that other money can come in.”

The online funding appeal’s initial target is for £30,000. But, with the shelter requiring £270,000 a year to operate, even if the target is reached the majority of funding will still need to be found.

“We are enormously grateful to the people who have supported our appeal so far,” added Lucy.

“The messages of support we have received tell us that the community wants the night shelter to be here this winter, and we want to be here too so that our vital work can continue.

“It is only four months since Lynn made the national news following the death from hypothermia of a rough sleeper in the garden at St John’s Church in The Walks.

“This is not the time for Lynn to lose its night shelter – and we warmly welcome our community’s support.”

Homelessness charity Greater Change says rough sleeping has increased by 169 per cent since 2010, in part due to “drastic cuts” to benefits made by the government.

When the night shelter was set up, around 42 people were rough sleeping in the borough each night.

There is some disagreement between the shelter and the borough council over the number of people still requiring support, with the shelter stating all eight of its rooms are full at any one time with more people on a waiting list, while the council says the borough only has between zero and three rough sleepers each night.

Borough and county councillor Alexandra Kemp described news of the failed bid as “extremely disappointing”.

She added: “With winter approaching, there are already people seen camped out in shop doorways in the town centre.

“Lynn needs its night shelter. It provides a valuable, caring service to people who could otherwise fall through the gaps of local authority categories.”

A spokesperson for West Norfolk Council said the night shelter needs to change the way it operates if it is to qualify for public funds, adding: “The night shelter does not have a plan for operating sustainably that reflects our requirements (to meet the prevailing needs of rough sleepers in this borough) and therefore the council cannot recommend using public funds to support them.”

The spokesperson said the authority had previously raised concerns with the shelter about its financial sustainability, how its operating model “no longer reflects the needs of the borough” and about providing value for money.

In order to qualify for future council funding the shelter would need to “ensure those being accommodated are actually rough sleepers or threatened with rough sleeping” and “adopt a service that recognises the changes to the landscape around rough sleeping” since it was established during a crisis in homelessness.

“Whilst fully respecting their need to work to their own charitable objectives, we can only use public money to fund services that help to serve the identified needs of local people,” added the spokesperson.

A DLUHC spokesperson said: “We recognise the great work of King’s Lynn Night Shelter and the importance of night shelters for people experiencing rough sleeping.

“King’s Lynn Night Shelter has been successful in securing over £120k of government funding through previous rounds of the Homelessness Winter Transformation Fund.

“We are determined to prevent homelessness before it occurs and have given £2 billion over three years to help local authorities tackle homelessness and rough sleeping, targeted to areas where it is needed most.”

If you want to donate, see www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/klnightshelter or donate directly to them at St John’s House in Blackfriars Road. They also need volunteers, see www.klnightshelter.org.uk/volunteering

Do you have a story for the Lynn News? Email newsdesk@lynnnews.co.uk

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