A project to give the homeless of Merton a place to sleep during winter is back for another year.

The Merton Night Shelter has been running for eight years at faith venues across the borough, serving those in need during the coldest months.

Paul Heaver, 61, knows how difficult it can be living on the street and said how much the project meant to him.

“I lost my job and my home as a chef," he said.

"It was quite a shock. I had been working since I was 16 so to find myself out of work and living on the streets was very difficult.

"I just didn’t know who to talk to or where to turn to, to find shelter.

"They (the police) suggested I went to the YMCA, who put me in touch with Merton Night Shelter. Luckily for me a space came up for me at the last minute.

“I can’t praise the night shelter enough.

"All that mattered to me was that I wasn’t going to be sleeping outside – I did it 3 times and couldn’t believe a human body could get that cold."

The service is run as a partner project of the YMCA St Paul’s Group and supported by the Wimbledon Foundation and Merton Council.

YMCA project coordinator Nicki Zisman allocates more than a dozen places to people who are either referred by partner agencies or who have self-referred.

“We have 14 different faith venues hosting which include churches, the synagogue and the mosque, with the Hindu temple providing the food at one of the churches. We will host approximately 35 people over any winter season,” Ms Zisman said.

“Our core purpose is to offer respite over the coldest winter months, but we try to help people move into accommodation.

"We register everyone with a GP and try to support with whatever issues our guests need help with.

"Key to the operation are the fantastic volunteers who work on a rota basis to provide a hot evening meal, a safe, warm place to sleep and breakfast each day of the shelter run."