Cumbria Crack

Extraordinary community project helps homeless people make real progress

Winter Shelter Coordinator, Lois Sparling, and Client Support Worker, Chris Holland, with bags of bedding ready to wash in front of the Winter Shelter Store.

[T]he fifth Kendal Winter Shelter finally closed its doors on Saturday morning having provided hot meals and beds for homeless people in church venues around town since the start of December. This year 12 guests were signed in to the Shelter over the three months and many had, with the intensive help of the staff of Manna House who coordinate the Shelter, moved into some form of housing before the Shelter closed its doors.

The Winter Shelter this year was once again an extraordinary community effort. For three months, over 100 volunteers from as far away as Windermere and Lancaster regularly gave up their evenings to prepare beds, share meals, stay overnight and serve breakfast to the guests. Many have done it for all of the Shelter’s five years and say that they enjoy the opportunity to meet, work with and get to know a wide range of people from all over the South Lakes – the volunteers as well as the guests.

Six Kendal churches offered their meeting rooms and kitchens to provide the venues and many other churches, schools and businesses donated food, clothing and bedding to keep the Shelter supplied. Now that the bedding is all coming back in from the venues to the Winter Shelter store to be washed and put away for another year, we can really see the scale of that generosity. ‘We are so grateful to the churches who take part, and all our volunteers. They really are lifesavers,” says Lois Sparling, Winter Shelter Coordinator.

This year, having planned to close the Winter Shelter as usual at the end of February, Manna House made the decision to extend it for an extra couple of nights for the two guests who were still using it at the time of the cold snap. They had previously felt that pre-existing commitments of churches, staff and volunteers would make it impossible but in the end dedicated volunteers and willing churches stepped in to help out. Consultation is ongoing as to whether the Shelter should run for a longer period in future, or have a formal contingency plan for extreme weather in November or March.

The 2017/18 Winter Shelter will close with a Shelter Celebration Supper on Friday 23 March for all the volunteers. Next on the agenda is the Shelter’s first fundraising concert. Folk legend Roy Bailey is coming over from Sheffield to play a rare gig on this side of the Pennines at St George’s Church, Kendal on Saturday 14 July. Tickets are £12 and available now from