AS TEMPERATURES drop towards zero, rough sleepers in the borough are the ones who are left open to the elements at all times of the day.

However, a scheme in Basingstoke will once again provide respite and hospitality to people sleeping rough.

The Night Light Winter Shelter, now in its second year, will provide a safe place for people living on the streets to sleep, enjoy a hot meal and just have someone to talk to.

The shelter will be open seven nights a week from December 1 to February 28 with guests referred to the shelter by relevant agencies in Basingstoke.

Run mainly by volunteers from a network of churches across Basingstoke, the scheme aims to help and encourage its guests to engage with the town’s authorities and agencies to find more permanent accommodation.

Liz Howe, last year’s project coordinator, launched the pilot scheme as part of the Real Change, Not Loose Change campaign.

Lorraine Anstey, who this year takes on the role of project coordinator from Liz, said: “We all learnt a great deal from our experiences last year and we want to build upon that and improve on our successes.

“We have centralised some of the roles to help support our venue coordinators; we have people centrally coordinating supplies, rotas, menus, transport etc. And we are also open seven nights a week, a change from last year’s five nights.

“The council has been great support, offering us excellent training relevant to homelessness and this will also help us to improve and build on what we learnt last year. We hope to once again create a welcoming family atmosphere.”

As a result of last year’s project success and the collaboration of the council and other Basingstoke agencies, 32 people who used the shelter became housed.

Lorraine, who volunteered as a venue coordinator last year, said she could see first-hand the difference the shelter made .

She added: “By the time we reached the end of the scheme our guests were looking a lot healthier and there was certainly a loosening of belts as guests were eating better too.”

Lorraine is confident that the near 300 volunteers can once again provide the hospitality the guests require and she is also pushing for this year’s scheme to be graded for a quality mark by Housing Justice.

To help the Night Light Winter Shelter, donations of general supplies such as tea, coffee, sugar and bottled water are welcomed.

Items can be dropped off at Basingstoke Churches Together churches or GO Outdoors, in Reading Road.

To support the Real Change, Not Loose Change campaign visit