CHURCHES have joined forces in Durham to offer an emergency night shelter for the homeless on evenings when the temperature drops below one degree.

The Salvation Army and four places of worship have launched the pilot scheme aimed at giving rough sleepers and the homeless a place of safety, a bed and something to eat in Durham City.

The project began operating earlier last month and welcomed 33 guests over seven nights before it closed for the Christmas/New Year period.

Darryn Hook, community mission facilitator for Sanctuary 21, of the Salvation Army, said the main objective is to offer “a place of safety”.

He said: “If the temperature goes below one degree we open a building. We then offer something to eat in the morning. The idea (of the shelter) is to provide a place where they can feel welcome, supported and safe.”

Working alongside the Salvation Army on the project is St Nicholas’s Church, in Durham’s Market Place, North Road Methodist Church, the place of registration, Elvet Methodist Church, on Old Elvet, and St Godric’s Church, on Castle Chare.

Mr Hook said other accommodation was available in Durham, at The Fells, run by charity Changing Lives for men aged 18 and over.

The charity is one of many agencies which works closely with the Salvation Army, which operates Sanctuary 21, on Saddler Street, where the homeless and rough sleepers can shower, eat and drink and get hold of essentials.

Now the team behind the pilot is building resources and the number of volunteers in the hope of running it next winter and on a more permanent basis.

Mr Hook said: “Our aim using the shelter is that you’ve got rough sleepers in one place - an outreach worker (with charity Changing Lives) can come in and look into what he can do.

"The aim down the line is to have it available with the hope in the long term it won’t be needed, if we can eradicated homelessness.”

Fifteen individuals have used the service so far - the number of rough sleepers Mr Hook believes to be in Durham City currently.

“It went down to seven at one point but recently has gone up to 12,” he added. “The most we’ve had in a night shelter was seven.”

Relying solely on volunteers, the shelter will resume on Monday, January 14.