Birmingham Christmas Shelter is a local charity that has raised funds and recruited volunteers each year since 1974 to provide local adults who are homeless or otherwise alone at Christmas with a free warm, safe and welcoming place to eat, shower, sleep and enjoy Christmas.
Every year we open our doors to our guests for several days and nights during the Christmas week, when most of the other services they rely on, take a well-earned rest and close down.
We became a registered charity in 1991 and changed our name from Birmingham Open Christmas to Birmingham Christmas Shelter in 2007.
For a week each year from 1992 to 2005 we had use of St Martins Youth and Community Centre in Gooch Street, Highgate but eventually outgrew the venue with the numbers coming to us. Christmas 2005 saw us relocate to St George’s Community Hub, Great Hampton Row, Newtown that was able to provide us with a purpose-built kitchen, a dining room, showers, several large rooms, and a free car park. It was a fantastic environment for our guests and volunteers and easy to get to with good public transport links. However, in 2017 it changed hands, and the new owner was forced to recoup his investment in the site by renting the rooms to other organisations such that, by 2021, the available space and facilities were no longer adequate for our needs.
The government restrictions to help control the Covid-19 pandemic prevented us from opening at all in 2020 and in 2021, we were only allowed to run a day centre service. During this period, Birmingham City Council was able to provide all homeless people with a safe place to sleep and shower. However, we all knew this could not replace the sense of having fun together in the pop-up overnight shelter that we normally offer.
With great help from our partner agencies and Father Michael White, Chair of the Catholic Diocese in particular, we were introduced to our 2022 venue at St Catherine of Siena Catholic Primary School on Great Colmore Street, which is sandwiched between the O2 Academy and the IBIS Budget Hotel, just off the A38 Bristol Street. It is even closer to the city centre than before and on excellent public transport routes making it easy to reach for both guests and volunteers. As an outstanding primary school, it is warm and welcoming with bright colourful displays, a purpose-built kitchen, lots of ground floor rooms, car parking and even an enclosed football pitch. Listening to the wishes of our guests and the concerns of the City Council Public Health Department, we decided to modify our overnight accommodation and provide a mixed approach. We obtained funding from the former Socks and Chocs charity to pay for a whole floor of ensuite bedrooms at the IBIS hotel next door and reduced the numbers who could only be offered a communal sleeping space at the main venue.
Even with minimal publicity, over the four days and nights we were open, we saw over 280 different people. The feedback from our guests was very encouraging and they spontaneously made and signed 3 very large thank you cards for the school, the hotel, and our volunteers.
The staff and parent governors of the school were pleased with the care that our guests took of their school, and this was mirrored by the feedback from the hotel next door. As a result, Birmingham Christmas Shelter has now entered a new phase and for the foreseeable future will continue to run from St Catherine of Siena Catholic Primary School and the IBIS Budget hotel albeit making use of the feedback received to improve how things are run.
Birmingham Christmas Shelter is run by a board of volunteer trustees all of whom have experience as a volunteer during Shelter Week.
This enables us to make use of our knowledge and experience of the needs of and issues for our volunteers and guests in our planning.
Trustees attend frequent meetings throughout the year to improve how things are run and plan the operational aspects of the charity. We are a very operational board and at least one of us will be on duty at all times during the Shelter Week to make sure things run smoothly. As we receive no statutory funding, we are totally reliant on donations in cash and in kind from local people and businesses and spend a large part of each year fundraising to make it possible to open at Christmas. Details of how you can get more involved in this, is available on this website.
Birmingham Christmas Shelter is a registered charity – number 1002891. It is underpinned by a Charitable Declaration of Trust last updated in 2019; this trust deed can be read here.
In keeping with charity law, Birmingham Christmas Shelter completes and files its annual accounts and trustee’s annual report with the Charity Commission within 10 months of the end of the financial year. A summary of these documents is published each year by the Charity Commission and can be seen here.
Our trustees and volunteers work to a regularly updated set of operational policies to ensure consistency in the way we work and that we follow best practice in health and safety and inclusion. All our volunteers receive training prior to working with our guests and we have clear expectations on behaviour to guarantee that both volunteers and guests have a welcoming and safe time. There are more details of how you can volunteer or attend our Shelter as a guest on this website.