Who are we?

We are a group of volunteers, of all ages and from all walks of life, from the Church and Community with a shared aim to help vulnerable people. Some of us will have volunteered before but many will be new to the shelters this year.

What do we do?

We share compassion for those less fortunate than ourselves and aim to provide a safe, comfortable place for people who would otherwise be sleeping on the streets. We give them a warm welcome, food and a warm bed for the night. All are welcome regardless of race, colour, creed, disability and sex. The volunteers lend a listening ear when needed and supply information about agencies that may be able to help our guests. The volunteers and guests have rules and guidelines that must be adhered to in order to enable the smooth running of the shelters and to make for a safe, peaceful night.

When are our volunteer time slots

This year the shelters open on Sunday, 11th November and run until the end of March. 7 nights a week. Doors open 9.30 or 8.30pm and close 8 am.

Volunteers work one of the four following shifts Evening shift 8.15 or 9.15pm -11pm. Night shift 11pm-7am Morning shift 7am-8.30am There is also a shift after the free meals provided by Project 58.7 on Mondays at St. Martin’s Church between 7.30pm and 9pm. Our guests stay here until they leave for the shelters which are at a different venue.

Where are our shelters

Please get in contact for the most up-to-date information.

Why are we targeting the homeless for our help?

There are many rough sleepers in the Basildon area. Some you may have seen around the town centre but there are many more who you would be unaware of. They are frequently physically and verbally attacked, just because they are seen as “different”. They have their belongings stolen or destroyed because they are vulnerable. They are people just like you and me and most didn’t choose to be on the streets. They deserve to be treated with respect and to feel safe at night.

How You Can Help?

By Volunteering at any of the venues for at any of the shifts. Do as many shifts at as many venues you wish. Help weekly, fortnightly, monthly or just whenever you can. Be a standby volunteer to cover in emergencies. 

Don’t worry- your team leader will allocate the tasks so you may be asked to make toast or to make drinks. You could help put the sleeping bags out or put them away. You could tidy and clean up after the guests have left in the morning. If you feel comfortable about it you could just chat to our guests and make them feel welcome. We all have different skills we can contribute. For these roles we use a DBS check and provide training.

If you feel that volunteering isn’t for you we are always grateful for donations. We are always glad of new socks, hats and underwear. Toiletries for men and women.

Hopefully you will feel a great sense of achievement and satisfaction knowing that you have helped make someone else’s life a little easier. Many people feel that they would like to,“ give something back to society”. You will most likely change your perception of homeless people in a positive way.

Chris Locke, BENS volunteer

“I have always had a heart for homeless people. Initially I gave gifts of money to those I’d meet. But later found out that gifts of food or sharing dinner and conversation with them was a better strategy.

“Two years ago, when I found out that my church was going to use our hall as an emergency night shelter, I jumped at the chance to volunteer.  I am delighted that for the third year running we will be back in action again, helping the poorest and neediest people of Basildon. Last year, it was distressing not to be able to help my homeless friends on the two days a week the shelters were closed. This year, I am really pleased that the churches together in Basildon will be offering shelters seven nights a week.

“I look forward to my nights helping at the night shelter and talking to our guests. In conversation they open up and give their story. This makes for fascinating and interesting discussions and also results in us becoming friends very quickly. And because they are friends helping them is a pleasure not a chore. But the real buzz is being able to provide the most important needs in life – food, shelter and to show God’s love. By the end of the evening the cold, wet, anxious, hungry, depressed person you met at the start of the evening is warm, dry, fed, comfortable, safe and sleeping with both their eyes shut.

“It seems to me, life is a wonderful gift given freely, and in return giving gifts of help to others completes the circle. I believe we are here to make a difference and in two hours at the night shelter you can make that difference.”

Here are some of the things our other volunteers said about their experiences of volunteering at the shelters.

“It’s great being able to make someone’s day by doing something very simple and easy. When they appreciate it it’s great.”

“Positive experience — I enjoyed working with the other volunteers.”

“I felt apprehensive beforehand but in reality, it was brilliant.”

“In my experience all the guests were polite and well behaved.”

The stories featured here are personal accounts.

Here are some of the things our other guests said about their experiences of volunteering at the shelters.

“I was able to sleep with both eyes closed without being worried about being beaten up or robbed.”

“I enjoyed being warm and safe.”

“All the volunteers are very helpful and caring.”

“Thank you for all you do.”

“Everyone has been good to me.”