Hackney Winter Night Shelter and the Belter for the Shelter comedy night

Established over twenty 20 years ago, The Hackney Winter Night Shelter has become a route out of homelessness for those it supports. Begun as a small network of volunteers from local churches with a shared vision, the idea was to run a shelter for one night each week. Some of the initial volunteers had personal experience of homelessness, giving the group a keen insight into the issues that needed to be addressed. Today it provides professional and holistic support, helping guests to rebuild their lives alongside a hot meal and a warm bed.


The organisation is volunteer-led, with over more than 600 volunteers from all walks of life, and opens its doors seven nights a week from November to March. It has become a lifeline for the many people it supports, filling over 3,500 beds each year. Additionally, an average of 70 people every year are helped to find more stable accommodation through the support they receive.

HWNS relies on donations, grants and fundraising to deliver its services, and for the past five years has put on Belter for the Shelter, an annual comedy night held at the Hackney Empire. Tickets sell out quickly and, with top rate comedians, the acts are always a hit with the audience. This year’s comedy night will be on the 19th of February, and will be compeared and led by Stewart Lee. With nine comedians – including Rosie JonesHarry Hill and Nish Kumar – it will be a stellar evening.

– Homeless charities and organsiations refer potential guests for the Shelter who wish to move off the streets
Advocate workers assess suitability for Shelter environment

Advocate workers support people to find more stable accommodation
– Advocate workers ensure access to other services to help guests rebuild their lives

Moving on
– Guests stay up to one month
– Guests receive support into new accommodation
– Advocate Workers ensure ongoing support is in place

HWNS welcomes guests and volunteers from any and all backgrounds and there are three pathways for volunteering:

Shelter Volunteer
– Help us to deliver a warm, safe and enjoyable night for our guests.

Event volunteer
– Help us with our annual programme of fundraising events.
– Professional volunteer
– Contribute specific skills that add value to the lives of guests or the running of the night shelter.

Hackney Winter Night Shelter
Room 3, Old School Rooms, The Round Chapel, 2 Powerscroft Road,  E5 OPU

W: hwns.org.uk
E: info@hwns.org.uk
T: 0208 533 8308  (Mon – Fri 9.30am – 5pm)

If you are concerned about someone you have seen sleeping rough, you can send an alert to StreetLinkThe details you provide are sent to the local authority or outreach service for the area in which you have seen the person, which will help them find the individual and connect them to support.

W: streetlink.org.uk

T: 0808 800 4444

Images courtesy of HWNS, showing some of the stars from 2018’s fundraiser.