Night shelters – on church property

29 September 2019

An overview of the considerations your church should make for the smooth running of a night shelter.

Vector image of group of people carrying donations in boxes

Create a night shelter log book

It is useful to keep a log book each day with:

  • Details of guests who did and did not arrive and any incidents, including “near misses” or actual accidents even if they were minor. Injuries should also be recorded in the accident book.
  • Emergency telephone numbers; including project coordinator, doctor, police, all-night chemist and local minister of your church.
  • Copies of important policies including guest agreement, health and safety, violence, alcohol/drugs and confidentiality policies.

Make sure you appoint a project coordinator

Night shelters are a wonderful way to support vulnerable people in the community but can be a big responsibility. You will need to appoint someone with the time and energy to ensure policies and procedures are effectively managed.

Need-to-know information

All staff, volunteers and guests should know where to find the fire exits, first aid kit and evacuation procedures. You should secure areas in the church or hall you don’t want guests to use.

Consider providing a safe area for volunteers’ belongings and guests’ valuables (valuables should be logged and a volunteer responsible for giving them back).

If you are an employer

If your church has employees or volunteers, you will have duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the regulations made under it.

You may need to:
  • Complete risk assessments to identify the precautions you need to take
  • Implement those precautions, providing information and training for any employees and volunteers on what they need to do
  • Document your arrangements and responsibilities for running the shelter, perhaps as part of your health and safety policy
  • Keep records of what you have done.

Additional legislation

In addition to providing a safe place to sleep, they often include providing meals, washing facilities and advice and support on housing, debt, domestic violence and job hunting. Your night shelter may therefore fall under the following legislation:

  • Food Hygiene regulations – the Food Act 1990 and the Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006. Further guidance is available in our health and safety guidance notes.
  • Charity Law – to receive charitable donations, a shelter needs to have charitable status – this is usually the church’s charitable status but if a shelter has its own identity, it needs charitable status in its own right and its own insurance.

Adjusting your insurance

To cover the risks associated with running a night shelter, we will need to adjust your insurance policy and there is usually an additional premium. Please let us know if you are involved in a night shelter arrangement at your church and we will adjust your policy and premium accordingly.

For further information go to the Housing Justice website who also offer consultancy in running a night shelter.

Document icon Risk man in hat icon