A place of safety - how visitors to Shrewsbury Ark describe their feelings as they walk through the door

Michael and his brother, currently experiencing rough sleeping, had arrived in Shrewsbury as temperatures once again dipped below freezing.

Emily Bell (Chair of Trustees) talking with service user, Karl Deakin..
Emily Bell (Chair of Trustees) talking with service user, Karl Deakin..

After a night in the temporary accommodation provided under the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol guidelines they were signposted to Shrewsbury Ark a charitable refuge offering day care services in Castle Foregate.

"As soon as we walked in, there was a feeling that we were safe here," he said.

"People were welcoming - it seems a brilliant place. I have been to lots of areas and haven't seen anything like this."

They, as with everyone who calls in at the Ark, were not only able to have a shower, they were able to wash and dry clothes and even their sleeping bags, thanks to a row of washing machines and tumble dryers that are in constant use.

The Ark, open five days a week, currently has about 50 people a day using its facilities with about 25 enjoying a hot breakfast and 35 a hot, two course lunch.

Volunteer Kathie Oakley at Shrewsbury Ark

Those who are helped are certainly not all experiencing rough sleeping or homelessness.

Many are in temporary accommodation and may well have no access to cooking or laundry facilities. Others may be in sub-standard housing and others are vulnerable and need support.

One regular visitor in his 60s has been in temporary accommodation for seven months, after the lease on his flat wasn't renewed. He will pop in for company, something to eat and to use the computers and wifi. Staff are helping him to try to find a more permanent home.

"The help I have from the people here is priceless," he said.

"They are amazing people. I have had more help here that from anyone in trying to sort out somewhere to live."

Last year the charity moved into its new premises, the former Rock and Fountain pub, much bigger that it had operated from before.

Emily Bell (Chair of Trustees) at Shrewsbury Ark

Its chairman of trustees, Emily Bell, said the move had been wonderful, but it meant that the running costs had grown enormously.

"We are entirely reliant on donations and grants," she said.

"We also run our charity shop which not only brings in income for us, it provides somewhere that our visitors can go to get their clothes and items free of charge."

"We have a wonderful team of both staff and volunteers and an incredible core of generous donors.

"Energy bills and staff are our biggest costs and with prices rising everything seems to be going up."

The cost of fitting out the new premises - still ongoing - was also huge.

"Again we have had great support, from trades who have given us excellent rates, to a scout troop who recovered bench seats for us and students on painting and decorating courses at Shrewsbury College who did so much here."

"We are grateful for all the help we are offered."

Food donor - Carol Davies from Montgomery..

One donation arrived in the form of much needed boxes of noodle and porridge pots and other tinned and jar food.

It was delivered by Carol and Peter Davies who organised a quiz in the Dragon in Montgomery which raised £150.

"I just felt that we are very lucky in our lives and not every one is so lucky. Nobody wants to be homeless," she said.

Some visitors take advantage of the arts and crafts area and craft sessions run by volunteers. Others will borrow a book or just get some head space in the quiet area.

Ethan Green, Ursula Howells and Beth Petersohn

Whatever their personal circumstances they are grateful for Shrewsbury Ark.

Recently a home made card was dropped through the door.

Signing themselves a service user they wrote: "When I've been homeless in the past, or vulnerable or in need. You have always made me feel welcome back again. You deserve a medal or certificate for the good work that you do. Thanking you so much."

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