The Winchester Beacon is the new working name of the long-established charity, Winchester Churches Nightshelter (WCNS). WCNS was founded in 1988 to provide emergency shelter to people experiencing homelessness during winter months. Thousands of people have managed to escape homelessness with the support of WCNS.
Over the last 33 years the charity has evolved to become more than a Nightshelter which is part of the reason for the change of name. The Winchester Beacon is located on Jewry Street and offers ten single bedrooms and wrap around support to people experiencing homelessness.
We open all day and all night, 365 days of the year. We support, on average, between 100 – 150 people annually. As well as our bedrooms on site at The Winchester Beacon, we accommodate an additional eight people at our two off site properties in the local area. We have recently purchased a third off site property which will accommodate four people after it has been renovated.
We come alongside our residents during their stay with us to help them plan a path forward and to find more permanent accommodation which matches their needs. There is no fixed timeline and residents can stay anything between a few weeks to a year or more, an average stay is 116 nights.
As well as accessing secure and comfortable accommodation and nutritious food, during their stay at The Winchester Beacon, residents also benefit from a wide-ranging programme of practical and emotional support to help them break the cycle of homelessness and rebuild their lives.
Our core services include one-to-one advocacy; help and support with housing; budgeting and finances; assistance with benefits; practical aid with food and nutrition; guidance for anyone with substance misuse problems; counselling and psychotherapy and a wide range of training and recreational activities.
Why is our service so vital?
Homelessness is on the increase across England. According to the latest figures from Homeless Link (published in 2021) rough sleeping estimates show an increase of 52% since 2010, with 2,688 people estimated to be sleeping rough on any one night. This figure doesn’t include the ‘hidden homeless’ or statutory homeless, so the real figure is probably much higher.
There is also an acute lack of housing support for those experiencing homelessness in Hampshire. We remain the only Nightshelter offering emergency access to single men and women in the county. Each year we are forced to turn away, on average, between 150 – 300 people due to lack of bed space.
This issue is compounded by a shortage of affordable housing locally. The average waiting time for a one-bed council property in Winchester for someone who is not in priority need is four years and four months, with the average cost of a one-bed private rental in central Winchester almost £800 (as of 2019).
Many of those who find themselves homeless are not only coping with a lack of housing but with a raft of other problems. There is no single reason why someone can end up without a home – personal circumstances and wider factors both play a role. The most common factors cited as contributing to homelessness are often complex and interlinked. They include relationship breakdown, mental and physical ill health, financial issues, unemployment and substance misuse. However individuals can arrive at the point of homelessness after a long chain of other life events.
Tackling homelessness effectively can only be achieved by partnership working and collaboration between charities and other organisations who can together address the wide-ranging and interlinked issues that relate to homelessness.
homeless people have attempted suicide
homeless people have a mental health problem
of ex-offenders who are homeless are re-convicted within 1 year
Our impact 2020-2021
- Our bed occupancy rate was 98%
- We accommodated 43 people
- 77% of our residents moved on to planned accommodation
- Residents stayed for an average of 116 nights
- We provided 228 hours of free counselling and psychotherapy
- For us, the most important result is helping our individual residents to transform their lives. The majority of our residents feel that we are doing a good job at this.