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  • Volunteers in a night shelter kitchen  

Night shelters – on church property

You may decide to run a night shelter in your church to help local homeless people. This might just be a warm place of shelter but often will include providing meals, washing facilities and advice and support on housing, debt, domestic violence and job hunting.

We've summarised the steps you need to take but you can also download our full guidance here.

Make sure you appoint a project coordinator. They will need to ensure the shelter runs smoothly and policies and procedures are effectively managed. This will include seeing that there are enough volunteers and proper handovers take place between them and that the facilities are adequate. The homeless are not automatically classed as ‘vulnerable adults’ and therefore volunteers do not need to be Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checked.

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.

  • 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.

The building

All volunteers and guests should be aware of where the fire exits, first aid kit, accident book, evacuation procedures, telephone and list of emergency numbers are. 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).


Night shelters 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.

  • Health and Safety legislation – you need to have conducted risk assessments and have a policy in place. Our health and safety policy with guidance notes gives more guidance.

  • 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.


There will be a small annual charge for churches holding night shelters to cover the cost of insurance. These premiums apply at renewal and remain on the policy until we are told the church is no longer a member or provider of a night shelter arrangement.
For further information go to who also offer consultancy in running a night shelter.


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