A 25-mile along the city’s redways by Interdirect staff, along with those from law firm Howes Percival and Milton Keynes College, in September raised more than £6,000 for Milton Keynes Community Foundation’s new City Fund which backs projects aiming to tackle the growing issue of homelessness locally.
Instead of sending Christmas cards to its clients this year, Interdirect asked friends and clients to sacrifice a small Christmas treat in aid of homelessness.
It has now presented a further £1,010 to the charity Winter Night Shelter Milton Keynes, which provides a bed, food and safe overnight accommodation for homeless and vulnerable people who would otherwise be rough sleeping during the extreme winter months between early December and and mid-March.
- Pictured: Interdirect managing director Nicholas Mann and senior PR account manager Anne Walsh (centre) with Winter Night Shelter Milton Keynes volunteers.
WNSMK works in partnership with Milton Keynes churches that provide their facilities free of charge. A large team of volunteers from across the city cook meals and provide a friendly safe environment each evening.
Interdirect’s managing director Nicholas Mann and senior PR account manager Anne Walsh were keen to find out more about the work of the Winter Night Shelter and volunteered to help out and see first-hand where the money would be be spent.
Here, they reflect on their visit.
The Winter Night Shelter Milton Keynes does so much more than offer a roof over the heads of the homeless in our city. It is a place where everyone is equal, where nothing is too much trouble and where lives can be changed.
As soon as we walked through the door there was a welcoming and friendly atmosphere. We were greeted by Phil and Adrian, just two of the many volunteers who go above and beyond to support the good work of WNSMK.
After a cuppa and a brief chat with the six other volunteers about what to expect, the minibus with mattresses and bedding arrived to take us to a church hall in Netherfield which we would turn into a safe, warm and dry refuge for the night.
We welcomed the nine guests who were booked in to stay that night. The shelter can accommodate up to 15, however, there are rules around drinking alcohol and apparently there was one person that had unfortunately broken those.
"It is a real shame when that happens,” Phil told us, “It is a guy we know well and he has been making really good progress so it is hard to hear that he has not been let in.
"But he knows the rules so he has not helped himself.”
The guests were welcomed like old friends coming over for dinner, there were hugs, high fives, and handshakes, before they were offered tea, coffee or a glass of water with a biscuit.
Sarah was the cook for the night. She told us that she had had some help with peeling the spuds from her three children earlier in the evening.
Dinner of sausage, mash, veg and onion gravy was served at 8pm. All of the guests and volunteers ate together.
After a quick tidy up from the main course, a fruit crumble and custard followed, which went down very well.
Over dinner, we chatted about the struggles that many of the guys are facing and the work being done, not only at the Winter Night Shelter itself but also through its welfare teams, to try to help them to get back on track.
"The simple fact is that there is not enough affordable housing in Milton Keynes,” Phil tells us. “Some of the guys we are supporting are working but it is really hard to hold down a job and keep on the right path when you have got nowhere to live.
"We had a 70-year-old chap here the other week. He has been in the UK for almost ten years but because he has not got the correct paperwork he cannot get housing – it is awful.”
After dinner, many of the guests watch some TV in a separate room although some are just keen to get their heads down.
"We tend to do ‘lights out’ at around 10-10:30pm-ish”, says Phil “and we have three volunteers who stay overnight to supervise. They will then do the breakfasts in the morning. It really is a team effort.”
The whole evening was a truly humbling experience. We will certainly be continuing to support and raise funds for this amazing charity and all of its volunteers, who give so much to help those less fortunate than themselves.
- To find out more about WNSMK, to volunteer or to donate, visit winternightsheltermk.com or search Winter Night Shelter MK on Facebook.