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Night shelter guidance, issued by the Government Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities changed on Friday 17 December, asks us to obtain written agreement to open from the Local Authority (LA) and local Public Health (PH).

Following discussions with our LA and PH teams, we have sadly decided to not open our Night Shelter this season. We will therefore not be opening on 4 January as originally planned, and over the next few weeks will be looking to enhance and widen our daytime support for guests.

The Omicron Covid-19 variant is currently transmitting at a very high rate across the UK and could, due to the communal nature of our night shelter, pose significant health risks for our guests, volunteers, and staff. In addition, the high rates of transmission, coupled with self-isolation requirements, means that our ability to maintain our Night Shelter over the winter months would be extremely challenging should positive cases emerge within our volunteer, staff, and guest teams.

Our priority has always been to ensure our guests have somewhere to stay during the coldest nights of the year. This week an additional £25 million has been allocated by central government to councils across England, to provide more emergency accommodation. This means the LA has increased its accommodation provision locally and is seeking to increase this further with arrangements with local hotels.

This will help the guests who would have been in our night shelter, and for whom local accommodation is important to maintain their employment or studying commitments. In addition, the LA are working hard to apply their Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) flexibly, to maximise provision at the coldest times, and to minimise the risk of death from exposure.

Our day-time support services will continue from Unity Park Station – providing the invaluable face to face support that we know makes a huge difference, and our staff and volunteers are committed to working with some of the most vulnerable members of the community.

Staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly this year due to the increasing need, which has resulted in us providing year-round welfare support and running our services over the summer for the first two years in our history. We are currently seeing over 100 welfare appointments each weekand aim to help any homeless, vulnerable person or family in need, and never turn them away.

This has been an incredibly hard decision to make, but we believe it’s the right one, given the significant transmission risks within our setting and the much-improved provision for guests, following the LA’s emergency accommodation options that will now be available.

We would like to say a massive thank you to all our staff and volunteers for the huge amount of work that has gone into getting us to this point. We would also like to thank our PH and LA teams, who have worked with us to ensure a solution could be found that is both practical and helpful for our homeless communities, while minimising transmission risks.

We will provide an update soon about any new volunteering opportunities available and will continue to plan and deliver the additional daytime services that our guests may need.

We want to thank you for your continued support.

Reception café and base for daytime support services:
Unity Park Station (formerly The Old Bus Station), 401 Elder Gate, Milton Keynes, MK9 1LR.

Registered office:
The Ridgeway Centre, Featherstone Road, Wolverton Mill South, Milton Keynes, MK12 5TH.

Charity Reference No. 1149480
Registered Company No. 08232340