On the opening night of the Care Shelter this winter the first of the staff team turned up at the church to be greeted by a familiar face – Sally.

Sally had used the shelter for the previous three winters and was well known to the staff. Emotions were mixed; on one hand the staff member was pleased to see her but on the other, there was disappointment that she was back at the shelter again. But something was different about Sally. She looked good. And she was smiling! After greetings were exchanged Sally explained that she had come along tonight to say hello and to tell the staff how she was getting on – she didn’t need to stay for the night. Wonderful! She thanked the staff for all their help and said the shelter and its staff were amazing.

Very few people stay at the shelter for more than half the nights of the winter season but last year Sally had stayed every night except one. On the last morning, as the shelter closed for the summer, Sally had hugged the staff team goodbye, in tears because she didn’t know where she was going to stay that night and she was scared. The staff had tried their best to reassure her, themselves unsure where she would end up that night and they resolved to pray that she’d be safe.

The Care Shelter was the only place Sally felt safe. She didn’t engage with other services, even those that visited the shelter on a weekly basis. Crisis Skylight had known who Sally was for some time but she had never been willing to engage with them. Last winter Sally started to tentatively engage, having attended one of their classes. Soon afterwards they were able to help her apply for benefits and accompanied her to the job centre and to the council to apply for temporary accommodation. She got a bank account and started volunteering through a placement arranged by the job centre to build her CV.

Sally was so pleased to tell the Care Shelter staff that she is now in a B&B and not having to stay at the Care Shelter. She had a big smile on her face as she announced that her PVG clearance had just come back and she would start work in a care home the next day. The staff were delighted for her and were hugely encouraged by this remarkable transformation.

What a great way to start off the 2017/18 winter season!