How we began
The Winchester Beacon (Winchester Churches Nightshelter) has a proud history dating back over 30 years. It was founded in 1988 by Churches Together in Winchester to support those experiencing homelessness in the city. This charity group, run by voluntary effort, used various buildings around the city, including church halls and temporarily vacant properties. This led to short-term accommodation being provided. In 1995 we became a registered charity, moving into our dedicated premises on Jewry Street in central Winchester in 1997.
The building, which was owned by Hampshire County Council, has variously been used as a Victorian gas-works, a Burberry factory, a bakery, a co-operative dairy, a printing works and finally a library store. The Winchester and District Housing Association agreed to develop the site, in a joint venture, to provide a shelter for the homeless on the ground floor and ten low cost studio flats above. The Nightshelter was officially opened on the 14 September 1997 by local Baptist minister, Rev Paul Hills.
Where are we today?
The Winchester Beacon now includes a permanent staff of thirteen (eight full-time and five part-time staff). The staff team receives vital support from many volunteers, who are crucial to the opening and safe operation of The Winchester Beacon. As well as cooking, cleaning, helping in the evening, or staying overnight, many of our volunteers offer their professional services too, such as hairdressing, IT support, legal advice, and much more. Without them, The Winchester Beacon simply would not be able to open.
Not only do our volunteers donate their valuable time and skills, but they also save us money – around £145,000 per year in donated hours – funds that we can put back into services for our residents.
As well as our main site on Jewry Street we operate three off site four bedroom properties which provide a stepping stone to independent living for our residents.
Our funding comes from roughly three different sources; donations and Gift Aid, Housing Benefit and resident payments, and local government funding.
We also receive vital support from the local community via the many groups (churches, schools, businesses and more) and individuals who regularly donate not only funds, but also food, clothes and other essential items.
On average per year, donations of toiletries, cleaning products and food to The Winchester Beacon save £44,480.
We are frequently amazed by people’s generosity, and could not help as many homeless people as we do without it.