It is with huge regret that we have taken the decision to close our Winter Shelter with immediate effect due to a shortage of experienced staff for this seasonal work.
We initially suspended operations temporarily on 9 January to see if we could recruit but to no avail. Despite having a number of interviews for staff pending, all of the applicants we invited for interview, either didn’t turn up, cancelled, or turned down the role that was offered.
Sadly this has been a feature of our attempts to recruit for the shelter this year. With full employment in Surrey, the pool of available people is small, and it is not possible to prise people from a full time role into a seasonal job.
Of those who did apply for the roles, there was a lack of applications from people with significant experience of working with rough sleepers or chaotic homeless people. Such experience is essential in running such provision given the need to manage risk for the benefit of everyone, than can be supported by others with less experience.
We considered different models of delivery and management of the shelter – but without experienced staff, it is difficult to contemplate the support and training of less experienced staff and volunteers.
We also considered a number of different staffing options, including deploying existing staff into the shelter. However with the current recruitment climate, our teams – many of which have a number of vacancies themselves – are already under pressure.
Recruitment has been difficult, not just for Transform but for the supported housing sector in general, due to full employment in Surrey and higher salaries elsewhere; meaning we are struggling to recruit and retain staff causing many gaps within our teams.
With rising salaries in this very expensive part of the country, recruitment is increasingly difficult in our sector, exacerbated by significant erosion and cuts in funding in every single year since 2002; we face a further round of serious funding cuts in April 2018 from local and central government.
We are however very fortunate to retain a strong core of very loyal staff who have been holding our high quality services together.
This situation is incredibly disappointing for us as it is for all of our partners, alongside those in need. The failure to recruit Winter Shelter staff has been a reflection of our overall experience in Transform for the past year or more.
We have not made this decision lightly, but we now intend to bring forward the planned day activities related to the health needs of the local homeless community within the three boroughs that we were going to start in March 2018.