I'm not sure if I should publish this post so if you're reading it you'll know I decided to 'publish and be damned.'
The Night Shelter is a brilliant scheme and I was delighted to have my chance to help out on Friday but, ever since then, I've been struggling with an issue.
One of the things about the Night Shelter, which has run successfully in London and other towns and cities for some years, is that there have to be strictly defined rules, Rules that you have to abide by. Rules like, if you're not there on time i.e. before 8.00 pm, then you're not allowed in.
So last Friday one guest arrived at about 9.30. His name was on the list but he was late so refused entry. Because that's the rules and there have to be rules because otherwise the guests will take advantage. If you break a rule once then next time it'll be that little bit later (or he'll be a little bit drunker or a little bit bolshier) and when do you stop? And besides the guests who'd managed to get there on time were objecting in no uncertain terms. 'It's not fair. We told him to come with us and he didn't so it's his own fault. You can't let him in.'
When I left the building at 10.15 pm it was 3 degrees on what was looking to be the coldest night of the year so far. We had space and spare beds and this man who'd made his way a few miles out of town to find us was sent out to sleep ... where? I don't know. I do know I can't see Jesus saying, 'Sorry but go away.'
I'm not on the rota again as Daughter's baby is expected in the next few weeks and I didn't want to have to let people down at the last moment, and I'm glad about that. Much as I think the shelter is a wonderful thing it needs stronger people than me to run it.