A homelessness charity in Kingston has aided hundreds of homeless people in the borough this winter.

The Kingston Churches Action on Homelessness (KCAH) group was one of two charities allocated funding from Kingston Council, which was awarded £372,000 by the Ministry of Housing's Rough Sleeping Initiative last year.

KCAH decided that a key intervention they wanted to pursue was the idea of a sheltered space for rough sleepers in the borough during the coldest months of the year. From this, 'The Haven' as it became known, was born.

Matt Hatton, KCAH Operational Director, said: "Since opening last September, we have seen over 200 people make use of the Haven. Some only come in for a warm meal but the majority bed down for the night."

Attendees at the Haven have access to warm food and drinks, plus other services like haircuts.

Mr Hatton added that the Haven also supports around 50 guests on a regular basis, while others who previously used the shelter have been helped get off the streets to an even greater degree.

In a statement to Surrey Comet, he said: "A good number (of people) are transient, just passing through Kingston but a core group of about 50 guests have consistently come in for shelter and sanctuary. KCAH has also been successful in helping 35 guests into other accommodation so far."

The Haven project is now set to be replaced by a "roaming shelter" scheme during February and March. While only 12 beds per night will be available under the new scheme, the Haven will re-open with space for up to 42 guests on nights when the temperature drops below 0C.

According to KCAH, the successes of the group this winter were built squarely on the backs of Kingston residents themselves.

Mr Hatton said: "The response by the local community to get behind this project has been staggering. Over 300 volunteers, including a good number of councillors, have attended training sessions and attend shifts to keep the shelter open.

"Importantly, this scheme has helped break down misconceptions around homelessness too."