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Night shelter given green light to open all year round

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West Norfolk has received some positive news this week as King’s Lynn Night Shelter – which less than a year ago was facing an uncertain future – was given the green light to open all year round.The facility in Blackfriars Road, which provides 24/7 support, food and a place to stay for homeless people, previously had to close during the summer months.Only last year the shelter faced the threat of completely shutting down due to lack of funding.

The Night Shelter in King’s Lynn

But a turnaround in fortunes and new sources of grant income have seen the shelter come back stronger and, on Monday, West Norfolk Council’s planning committee approved an application for the shelter to stay open all year.Lucy McKitterick, night shelter director, told Your Local Paper: “We’re very pleased the night shelter was granted planning permission to be open for our guests 24/7, year-round. “We applied for retrospective permission in September 2023 both to be open 24/7 – which is how we’ve been operating since we moved to St John’s House in 2020 following government advice to night shelters in the wake of the Covid pandemic – and also to be open year-round, rather than just during the winter months, again somewhat retrospectively as we’ve been operating for eight or nine months of the year for the last three years.

Night Shelter director Lucy McKitterick

“The application was approved with a unanimous positive vote. It’s enormously encouraging to have this support from West Norfolk’s elected members and we’re especially grateful to those of the committee who shared reflections on areas of personal concern such as the experience of veterans who find themselves on the streets.“The night shelter is here especially for people who have no other options.“We take referrals and self-referrals from people coming off the streets, or facing their first night with nowhere safe to go: we work together with a network of partner organisations to help our guests access support with issues such as physical and mental health, trauma, addiction, debt, and immigration advice, and to find appropriate longer-term accommodation as soon as possible.“We also provide an ‘at the door’ service of help for people sleeping rough or otherwise homeless or in temporary accommodation – including hot drinks, sandwiches, sleeping bags, the use of a phone, advice and signposting – we’re still the only door in King’s Lynn open 24/7 for this purpose.”

Night Shelter director Lucy McKitterick

The committee considered feedback from people living nearby and staff at the railway station, located close to the shelter, who aired concerns about rising levels of anti-social behaviour. However, Ms McKitterick told councillors that guests of the night shelter were being “unfairly blamed” as being responsible for issues such as street drinking and drug taking which are a general problem across the town.She said the shelter had only received one complaint since November – and it related to individuals not staying at the shelter. She added that of the 12 guests who use the site, many are women escaping abusive relationships.While acknowledging the concerns, councillors spoke in support of the “vital service” the organisation offers. But members called for more cooperation between partner agencies to help tackle anti-social behaviour. The plans were approved unanimously with a condition for a crime and disorder management scheme to be developed.Ms McKitterick added: “We work closely with the police, the council, probation services and others, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our guests and visitors on site. “We’re also committed to being good neighbours in our community, particularly as the people we work with are often very vulnerable and are also at risk from more widespread antisocial behaviour in the area. “The planning officers have asked us to work with our partners on a crime and disorder management plan, which we hope will provide an opportunity for more protection for those especially at risk.“It’s been interesting to follow the progress of the Criminal Justice Bill currently going through parliament, and which national charities such as Shelter and Crisis have criticised as criminalising rough sleeping.“It’s a good time for a local charity, and a local authority planning committee, to be taking a stand in favour of more help to people who find themselves homeless, including the complicated people, the people with complex needs, who have been through trauma, and don’t have an option anywhere else.“They’re the people the night shelter is here for, and as soon as we have enough funding, we can now be here for them year-round.”Reporting by Jeremy Owen and Owen Sennitt, Local Democracy Reporter

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