Is time running out for night shelter?

The clock is ticking to save King’s Lynn Night Shelter, with a deadline fast approaching to secure the critical government funding necessary for it to re-open in the autumn.

The night shelter has already missed out on £300,000 from Westminster after an earlier grant application was turned down.

The grant was required to pay running costs for the next three years and the bid’s failure leaves the shelter in potentially dire financial straits – it has been drawing on its reserves in order to stay open this year.

Lynn Night Shelter
Lynn Night Shelter

The shelter is due to close today (Friday) for the summer and, before it re-opens in October, coordinator Lucy McKitterick has to secure enough funding to cover initial running costs and be confident further funding will become available over the autumn and winter.

“Unless we get some money coming in over the summer, opening again in the autumn is going to be unrealistic,” said Ms McKitterick.

“But people are generous and we will continue to apply for grants.

“We need the community’s support behind us to carry on working with the people who need us, because if we aren’t here for them, who will be?”

A new bid is now being prepared for government funding of £200,000 to cover running costs for two years and £100,000 towards paying for a planned extension to the shelter, increasing capacity from eight rooms to 12.

The extension is a necessary part of the bid because the funding pot is for ‘transformational’ plans which enable shelters to reach more people, including minority groups such as the LGBTQ+ community or those with complex needs.

The deadline for submitting the new bid is in just one week’s time on July 7.

Last week night shelter staff held a meeting with staff and cabinet members at West Norfolk Council to discuss how the authority can best support the bid.

Alexandra Kemp, the Independent Partnership’s new cabinet member for people and communities, said the government turning down the previous funding bid was a “huge error of judgement”.

“In the current cost of living crisis, with soaring food costs, everybody is now thinking ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ because people realise how fragile the situation is,” she added.

“Time is running out for the night shelter to secure funding and we don’t want the same mistake again.”

With the latest deadline just seven days away, another meeting was held earlier this week with housing officers at the council who are able to give their views on the bid and write a letter of support for the shelter’s application.

Terry Parish, the Independent Partnership’s leader of the council, said: “I was present at a positive meeting between housing officers and night shelter representatives on June 21.

“The borough council’s desire to have the night shelter integrate effectively with provision made by other organisations was spelled out and the night shelter offered a possible solution that would satisfy its own preference for future development.

“A service level agreement, a contract, between the shelter and the borough can only be determined after further work by both parties. I am confident that each will endeavour to achieve that desired result.

“Government funding is another matter, as the fund currently being applied for by the night shelter was oversubscribed last year and will likely be again this. Officers will assist in the application as far as they can but are also advising on how future, sustainable, funding might be acquired.

“The main thing, from my point of view, is that we reach the right solution for the people of West Norfolk.”

Over the last nine months the shelter has welcomed 31 guests to stay, and helped a further 240 people ‘at the door’ with hot drinks, food, advice or a listening ear. This figure includes people sleeping rough, sofa surfing, in B&B accommodation, or in move-on accommodation but struggling to cope, and, of these, around 80 were given sleeping bags or referrals for other emergency accommodation.

Ms McKitterick added: “We are enormously grateful to the community for their support over the last year, to the many organisations and individuals who have given money or donated food or other items, and to our volunteers who between them give time worth around £100,000 to the night shelter each year.

“The night shelter plans to re-open in early October, and our hope is that 2023 will be the last summer we close.

“As the only temporary accommodation in West Norfolk providing round-the-clock pastoral care for our guests, we need to be here for the most vulnerable people who find themselves homeless, year-round, because people lose their homes at any time of year.”