Northampton's emergency night shelter has opened after two months of delays.
The long-awaited shelter for Northampton's rough sleepers opened its doors for the first time on February 6.
It will now open every night in St Andrew's Road from 9pm until 9am and can provide temporary overnight accommodation for up to 20 rough sleepers who have a local connection with Northampton.
Councillor Stephen Hibbert, cabinet member for housing and wellbeing, said: “Our aim is to end the need for people to sleep rough in Northampton. The opening of the night shelter takes us a big step closer to achieving that aim.
"It is basic, but it’s safe and warm and we’ll offer something to eat. Crucially, people coming to the night shelter can talk to our staff and volunteers and hopefully get the advice and support they need to get back on their feet."
But the shelter is only open to men while women will be offered alternative accommodation, says the Northampton Borough Council.
Northampton Borough Council was unable to open the shelter on schedule as they could not find enough volunteers to help run it, and at first appealed to find 60 people to man the night shift.
Councillor Hibbert said: “More than 50 volunteers have joined the team so far and we’re still receiving applications, which is great as the more people who want to get involved, the better.
“As the night shelter is open plan and space is limited, it isn’t suitable for use as a sleeping area for both men and women. Working with our partners, we’ll offer women alternative emergency accommodation if they are sleeping rough, or at imminent risk of sleeping rough, while we work with them to address their housing and support needs.
“I’d like to thank everyone who has made this night shelter possible. From the people who donated toiletries to those who decorated the night shelter and have volunteered their time, this shelter is the result of a huge community effort that will save and transform lives.”
Vulnerable people looking to use the night shelter need to be referred by one of the five approved referral agencies, who will ask them to prove they have a connection to Northampton.
The Northampton Hope Centre is one of these referral agencies. CEO Robin Burgess said: "We are very happy to see the long-awaited shelter open at last. It will offer a valuable service and contribution to the range of services available to Northampton's rough sleepers.
"We are aware of three women who sleep rough in Northampton but it is likely there are more. We are concerned to see that they are helped as well."
It is estimated there are 15 rough sleepers in the town according to a Northampton Borough Council count in November last year.
More than a hundred volunteers helped to transform the former British Rail Social Club, on St Andrew’s Road, into a safe, practical space. Another team of volunteers will work at the shelter during its opening hours with the support of two full-time members of staff.
The five approved referral agencies are Northampton Borough Council, Northamptonshire Police, the Hope Centre, the Bridge Project, and S2S.
The temporary emergency night shelter is one of 10 objectives set out by the Northampton Borough Council as part of the “together we change lives” strategy to end homelessness.
For more information on becoming a volunteer, visit www.northampton.gov.uk/northamptonnightshelter.
The Northampton Borough Council street outreach team is also asking for people to notify them of rough sleepers they see through an online form at www.streetlink.org.uk, where the information provided will help them make contact and offer help.