The Rev Helen Hayes, chairman of Leicester Charity One Roof Leicester, outlined to Leicester Novus Rotary Club the charity’s impressive record.
Helen is a non-stipendiary pioneer priest working with the homeless, overseeing the work of three staff members and hundreds of volunteers.
She showed 13 members and guests an eight-minute video made during the UK’s first-ever multi-faith winter night shelter.
For 11 weeks the charity provided overnight accommodation for 10 men at a time. They were collected from a central point each evening and were then driven to one of seven different destinations including three churches, a synagogue, a Hindu temple and a Muslim community centre. The men were given an even meal, and bed and breakfast the next morning.
During the 11 weeks, six guests were found more permanent accommodation, 1,300 evening meals were cooked and served, and 900 breakfasts were served.About 200 volunteers were involved in setting up the beds, serving the meals, spending a few hours each evening befriending the guests and then serving breakfasts before the camp beds were taken down and taken to the next venue for the following evening.
Asked how many people were sleeping on the streets of Leicester during the winter, Helen said there were a total of 36, but ten were temporarily accommodated at the Dawn Centre in Conduit Street near Leicester Railway Station and ten were helped by One Roof Leicester. That left 16 ‘rough sleeping’ — but that figure was initially, at any rate, disputed by Leicester City Council.
Helen also talked about the four houses in which One Roof Leicester currently houses 10 people who would otherwise be homeless. Two of those houses have been donated to the charity and two were let as an ethical investment giving a small financial return.
In the past those houses have homed more than 80 people for about 3,200 nights.
Asked about how well integrated into the locality the residents are, Helen said that a coffee morning was held when the first of the houses, in Evington, had been occupied by homeless people. At that coffee morning,she said, neighbours met for the first time and attitudes of wariness changed to being welcoming.
She said that Leicester’s response to One Roof Leicester had been outstanding and very moving. Thinking they would need £16,000, the charity launched an appeal and were amazed to discover that more than £110,000 had been given, including in some very substantial amounts.