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Homeless man describes new shelter at Norwich church as a Godsend

PUBLISHED: 07:02 03 March 2018 | UPDATED: 08:40 03 March 2018

Mark Stenbridge at the shelter at St Peter Mancroft Church in Norwich. PIC: Peter Walsh

Mark Stenbridge at the shelter at St Peter Mancroft Church in Norwich. PIC: Peter Walsh

Archant

It's a Godsend, literally - that is how 42-year-old homeless man Mark Stenbridge has described a new emergency shelter which has temporarily opened up at St Peter Mancroft Church during the freezing weather.

The shelter, at the Octagon room next to the church, opened on Wednesday and was again at capacity on Thursday (March 1) as street sleepers try to catch a hot meal and some shelter from the blanket of snow and ice which covers the city and the rest of the county.

Mr Stenbridge, who has been homeless “on and off for years” but this time since Christmas, said: It’s a Godsend, literally.

“I would be stuck outside (without It).

“Especially in this cold weather, it’s not good.

“But it’s not just the cold, it’s dangerous.

“There’s a lot of unwell people out there and especially when people have had a drink they tend to pick on homeless people. They are vulnerable anyway. It’s dangerous out there.”

Mr Stenbridge said he stayed on Wednesday night as well and would be staying “as long as it’s open”.

The Reverend Graham Kirk-Spriggs said it was “even busier” on Thursday than it had been on the opening night when there were about 30 people there.

Eric Hewson is one of the volunteers who made the opening possible, said: “We just had to do something to try get these people warm.”

It will open again tonight (March 2).

The shelter, which provides a meal, somewhere to sleep, teas and coffees and a hot breakfast, was organised by Louise Riseborough, the grand master of the Knights Templars in Walsingham.

She said: “I’ve been organising donations throughout the year, but with the cold weather we’ve realised there is nowhere for the homeless to go over night.”

The shelter at the church was to close on Friday night but St Peter Mancroft have agreed it will be available tonight (Saturday, March 3), and tomorrow night (Sunday, March 4).

But an appeal is now being made for empty buildings that could be used from Monday (March 5) onwards for shelter during the day and night. Sleeping bags, clothes and pop up tents are also needed as well as storage facilities.

Call 07503879266 if you can help.

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