FOR rough sleepers, having somewhere to get a hot meal and to sleep safely at night could make a huge difference.

Now in its third year the Night Light Winter Shelter is a dedicated volunteer run service which provides Basingstoke and Deane’s most vulnerable people with a bit of respite.

Set up by churches in the borough, and originally run at various church venues, the shelter will now operate seven nights a week at a fixed location in Sarum Hill.

The project is part of the work delivered by the Social Inclusion Partnership (SIP), which brings together a range of specialist, voluntary, statutory, faith and community groups.

Being in one fixed location has enabled more than 280 volunteers to create a feeling of home for clients, with artwork on the walls painted by guests or former guests.

Night Shelter project coordinator Lorraine Anstey said: “Being in one venue has allowed us to offer more facilities to those staying at the shelter. Guests are able to make use of a washing machine and tumble dryer, they are able to use computers provided by Tech Data to search for jobs and properties and they can also relax and watch a film in our TV room.

“We also have space for our guests to store their bag so that they don’t have to carry it round all day.”

For many of the volunteers, they have seen the project grow and as they return each year, they witness the success stories of previous guests getting into accommodation.

Within the Shelter the volunteers have created a sense of community. There is a separate dining room where everyone will eat together as well as play a host of games including pool, table top football, Scrabble and cards.

There is also a room dedicated to Peter Thorne who was a guest at the night shelter when it began in 2016. Peter passed away this year and so volunteers wanted to remember him by creating a “Pete The Hat” room.

For new volunteers like Catherine Craig and Mark Glasspool, the experience of helping at the shelter has been an eye-opening one.

Mark said: “You have a preconception of people who are sleeping rough, but then you come to somewhere like this and actually have a conversation and you realise they are just like everyone else.”

Catherine added: “I was looking forward to finding out what it was all about on my first night, and the people you meet are lovely.

“But when you hear their stories it really makes you think, this could happen to anyone, it isn’t just all people with alcohol or drug issues.”

The Real Change, Not Loose Change campaign is currently raising £15,000 to go towards the shelter to help with its continued work.

For more or to donate visit