Praise for church winter shelter volunteers
An army of volunteers has won praise for making it possible to open church winter shelters for the homeless in Ipswich.
The night shelters provided a warm and safe place to sleep for 40 people during the cold winter months.
They were supported by over 400 volunteers who served the night shelters in shifts, making up beds, serving food and befriending guests. In addition to a hot dinner and breakfast, guests were also able to clean and freshen up.
The Red Cross even provided a Land Rover to help some of the volunteers make it to the shelters when temperatures plummeted to minus 15 in parts of the county.
The shelters were open over three months, with seven churches taking turns to accommodate guests each night. They have just closed for the spring as the temperature warms up.
It is the second year in a row that churches in Ipswich have opened their doors to provide shelter to the homeless during the winter.
They built on the success of last year's efforts, which were recognised with the £10,000 Improve and Prove award on behalf of the Suffolk Foundation and Suffolk County Council.
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The Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, the Right Reverend Nigel Stock said the volunteers were an "inspiration for the whole town".
He said the night shelters were "sorely needed" during the winter cold spells.
"I hope and pray that this excellent work continues to thrive and I would like to express my admiration for all involved," he said.
The diocese's minister for church and community engagement, the Reverend Canon Paul Daltry said plans were already afoot to run the night shelters again next winter.
"The shelter has highlighted once again that homelessness is a real issue and that much still needs to be done to ensure that n oone needs to spend a second night out on the streets, and that there needs to be ways to break the vicious cycles that lock people in homelessness and poverty."