A huge donation of goodies from big-hearted staff at a private hospital has come as a welcome Christmas windfall for a Wrexham homeless shelter which has just seen its busiest ever month.
The vital supplies, including everything from warm clothing to essential toiletries, were handed over by operating department practitioners Catrin Stace-Jones and Lindsey Edge-Smith from Spire Yale in Wrexham to the town’s Tŷ Nos shelter in time for the big day.
Manager Andrew Edwards, who has worked at the shelter since it opened nine years ago and been in charge for the past five, was extremely grateful for the donation and said that it couldn’t have come at a better time.
“We’re seeing more homeless people using our service every year and this October was our busiest yet,” he explained.
“We have 16 beds available in the shelter and they were all full every night throughout the month. In fact, we had to turn away 90 people because we ran out of beds for them.
“We aren’t sure why this was but we do know that we have a group of regulars who don’t move on and come back time after time, so that doesn’t give us much spare capacity.”
Andrew said that in the nine years it’s been open the shelter has handled a total of 44,000 overnight stays – an average of 4,600 a year. Many people come back night after night for up to a month. So far this year, the total stands at over 5,000.
The shelter, housed in a former community centre in Holt Road, is run by the Clwyd Alyn housing association and is funded by them, Wrexham Borough Council and the Welsh Government.
It offers basic accommodation for both men and women aged 18 and over with preference for beds being given to those with local links.
Open from 8pm until 8am, it also provides showers and toilet facilities and serves cereals, tea and coffee at breakfast time. Shelter users can make themselves an evening meal from a stock of donated food. There’s also reading material available.
Two of the shelter’s four full-time project workers are on duty every evening.
Staff can signpost shelter users to welfare benefits, health care advice and drug and alcohol services.
Tŷ Nos will stay open throughout the festive season and Andrew said his wife Rusella will be coming in especially on Christmas Day to cook everyone who’s been there overnight a dinner with all the trimmings.
Catrin, who lives in Wrexham, came up with idea of making a special Christmas donation from Spire Yale to the shelter while she was walking through Wrexham town centre recently.
She said: “As I was going through the town in mid-November I noticed there seemed to be lots of people on the streets who obviously had nowhere to stay.
“That’s when I thought it would be good if I could get my colleagues at the hospital to hand some things over to Tŷ Nos, which I know does some really great work with the homeless.
“I put up a note in the staffroom for people to donate things like jackets, jumpers, hats, gloves, scarves and toiletries and by the end of the day I’d filled one big cardboard box with stuff, which was great.
“Since then we’ve managed to pack a total of 10 boxes and we’ve even had quite a few sleeping bags and books brought in. Most of the stuff is second-hand but there are quite a few new items too.
“I’d say we’ve had things donated by at least 30 of our staff from consultants to admin people.
“I think it’s much better to provide something for people that’s actually going to be useful than doing Secret Santa where you’re getting people Christmas gifts they don’t really need.”
Her operating department colleague Lindsey, who is also from Wrexham, said: “Everyone at Spire Yale was eager to help because the shelter is such a good cause.
“I think the items that were donated are all going to be very useful, especially the warm clothing if the weather turns really wintry.”
Shelter manager Andrew added: “At this time of year when everyone is busy running around getting ready for Christmas it’s nice to see people thinking of those who are less fortunate than themselves.
“This fantastic donation from some very generous people at Spire Yale is going to make this Christmas a bit more special for those who will be using Tŷ Nos.”
Donations of food or clothing to the shelter can be made during the daytime at The Foyer behind the Tesco store in Wrexham, telephone 01978 262222, or after 8pm directly to Tŷ Nos, call 01978 291274.