Winter Watch provides homeless, transient, vulnerable and lonely adults with hot food, clothing, showers and advice and support over the winter months. Many of our guests have mental health needs, drink and drug related problems.
The purpose of our free and open-access café is to provide a place of safety and warmth which minimises the risk of harm to some of the most vulnerable adults in our town. It is a place for friendship and a practical expression of care and compassion in action. It is also a place to get alongside people and provide information, advice and signposting to other services.
A number of our guests are known to us through their accessing other Urban Outreach services and so our café provides an opportunity for continuity of support.
“Coming here keeps me out of trouble. It’s decent food. Normally I would be drinking on the streets. It’s good to know there is somewhere to go.”
How it Works
Winter Watch has been operating since 1997. The café is based at our Urban Restore Centre which is situated on the corner of Pool Street and Bark Street, Bolton. We open our doors on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings between January and March. Each evening is staffed by volunteers.
The café provides every guest with a three course meal which they choose from the evening’s menu. It provides a safe place of warmth and friendship. It is a place for our guests to socialise and chat and for volunteers to provide a sympathetic listening ear. Emergency items are provided to rough-sleepers as needed. A hairdresser and chiropodist attend periodically. We have also held quiz and music spots which have been greatly appreciated by our guests – bringing joy and much valued socialisation.
Schools, churches and many other organisations provide most of the food we need to run Winter Watch. This is done through harvests and other events, and through regular food collections. We have a storage facility to help us sort and store food donations with a long shelf-life. This is supplemented by fresh food donated during the period of our café’s opening.
150 volunteers are recruited and trained each year to run the café on a rota basis. We also engage a team of volunteer cooks help prepare the delicious meals fresh each week the café is open.
In May and June of each year we run School Open Days. These allow year 5 and 6 primary school children to learn more about poverty and homelessness, and see what happens to their food donations. Then in Autumn we visit a large number of schools and churches to speak, share our work and collect food donations.
This winter, working alongside Bolton Council and other agencies in the town, we piloted a new initiative which provided an emergency night shelter on the coldest and wettest nights. The shelter was set up at Bolton Council of Mosques in Deane, Bolton. Winter Watch guests needing this facility moved on to the shelter after their meal.
Please click here for a list of food that you can donate to help us run Winter Watch. For details about dropping off your donation, please call the office on 01204 385848.
Visits to the café and meals provided this winter totalled 2,259 (slightly down from 2,279 in the previous year due to slightly fewer opening times). In total 375 individuals came through our doors, (down from 431). 39% of our guests this year also attended in the previous year (up from 33% last year). 288 were male and 79 were female. Our oldest guest was 75 and our youngest was 18. On average 10 of our guests were rough sleeping on the evening (up from 8 last year). Others were sofa surfing without a permanent place to call home.
Before the summer break, 11 schools enjoyed attending 19 Open Day sessions which we held at our Centre. We held one further session in a school. A total of 536 children and 64 adults participated in these. Last Autumn 77 schools, businesses and churches contributed tons of food and made valuable and greatly appreciated financial contributions in support of our work. We participated in 42 church services, lessons and school assemblies during the Harvest period.
We are continuing to work with our emergency night shelter partners under a newly formed ‘Bolton Homelessness Alliance’. Learning from our pilot project last winter is informing how we should develop a sustainable response to providing emergency shelter during extreme weather conditions. Our ultimate aim is to for no one to suffer the indignity of being roofless. The Alliance wants to ensure that a bed for every night is made available to all at the point of need.