More than 30 homeless people have avoided having to spend nights on freezing streets, thanks to the work of Tunbridge Wells Churches Winter Shelter.

Volunteers with the coalition of churches have also helped nine former homeless people into accommodation since their service began at the beginning of January.

With temperatures dropping below freezing (0°C) for three nights this week, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council has also been required to provide emergency accommodation to the homeless in a separate arrangement.

Organisers of the Winter Shelter have seen a fall in demand over the weeks they have been operating, with 31 different people having now stayed the night.

Until March 1 one of ten town centre churches will provide a meal, showers and safe place to sleep for 12 people a night on a rota arrangement.

Barry Chaseley, who is this year’s Shelter Manager alongside his wife, Maureen, said: “Usually we start off with low numbers and end up full.

“But this time we had 12 on our first night and we have seen nine of those find accommodation. We have not seen any guests from previous years.”

All first-time applicants must visit the council’s walk-in Gateway centre at Fiveways between 9.30am and 12.30pm on weekdays for an assessment and interview.

The Winter Shelter team then decide who to allocate the 12 spaces to, based on their situation and proximity to Tunbridge Wells – although the large majority are local.

Mr Chaseley added: “Some people have been offered a place and not come in.

“I don’t know why they would not but there might be a stigma about staying in a hostel or they have an offer of a sofa at a friend’s house.

“The guests who do come in have said the Shelter is far more than they expected and they are grateful.”

Over the 63 night period 234 volunteers will help cook and welcome the homeless people – referred to by Shelter staff as guests.

Julie Russell, Shelter Support Worker, said: “The atmosphere has been fantastic and the volunteers have been incredible.

“They have made a huge effort and we would not have a shelter without them.

“Having less guests is a positive thing and it would be worth our time even if there was only one homeless person we had helped.

“It has been so rewarding to be part of.”