A volunteer-run night refuge getting homeless people off the streets during the coldest months of the year has opened its doors once more.
Atherton and Leigh Shelter for HoPe began its third year of operations last week with its biggest facility so far.
The organisation, which has previously been based in church buildings, is running from a Wigan Council-owned property on Etherstone Street in Leigh town centre which has allowed 15 beds to be set up in three dormitories.
The night shelter will be open for four months over the coldest period of the year, giving people without a roof over their heads a bed, hot food and the opportunity to wash and have a shower.
And founder Warren Done says that its services are even more vital than in previous years.
He said: “Homelessness seems to have gone through the roof this year because of welfare cuts.
“Rents are higher, the cost of living is higher and we are noticing the need for help.
“We will be open for five nights a week until the end of April but really we are looking to make it a permanent facility.
“This is a council-owned building and they are supporting us.
“It has been a lot of hard work to get it ready but we’ve got an extra room compared to last year and there is also a shower and a washing machine and tumble dryer so we can clean people’s clothes.
“The response from the community has been great.
“People are realising there’s an issue and they are keen to volunteer.
“I don’t think we’ve gone short of anything.”
The night shelter is in the process of applying for Community Investment Fund money from Wigan Council to be able to run 12 months a year.
The town hall is already helping the project find a new base for next winter as the current building is only available for one year.
Warren, who is also project manager at Atherton and Leigh Foodbank, says the night shelter has a whole range of benefits for service users and also the organisations trying to get people off the streets.
He said: “I set the shelter up because I had noticed homeless people coming into the foodbank for a drink and something to eat.
“There are a lot of projects around but there was no emergency shelter to put people up at night.
“If referral agencies couldn’t find a property straight away people were out on the streets again.
“We’re trying to provide that missing link.
“People can come to us and get some food and a good night’s sleep somewhere warm.
“It keeps them out of trouble and then means they are ready to go to the agencies and sort themselves out.”