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Learn about the history of the trust and who we work with to provide the services we do

The Julian Trust started life in 1986 when a small group of concerned individuals, including our founder Meg Grimes, felt there was a need to do something for those who were sleeping on the city streets of Bristol in doorways, derelict buildings, cemeteries, and car-park stairwells to name just a few of the uncomfortable and unsafe locations. They decided that an Emergency Night Shelter was required to provide the first rung on the ladder out of homelessness. Volunteers and money were needed. So the news spread, mainly by word of mouth, and the public responded. But nothing could happen until a building was found from which the Night Shelter could operate.

First Year. The organisation was granted charitable status and the Catholic church of St Nicholas of Tolentino generously offered one of their annex buildings in Pennywell Road as a temporary base for our first premises. The Night Shelter opened its doors to its first guests on 26th September and there it stayed in cramped conditions for over a year until December 1987.

Second & Third Years. In December 1987 the Church of England made available the hall and other rooms within St. Thomas Church and we relocated there near to Bristol Bridge. This provided a larger dormitory, a better kitchen and sleeping quarters for volunteers in the bell tower!  The assistant diocesan secretary responsible for redundant churches, Ron Harwood- Smith, was instrumental in this provision. He became a member of the Julian Trust and at the same time with others formed a new charity, Caring at Christmas. Together, the Julian Trust and Caring at Christmas, ran the first Christmas Shelter offering 24-hour provision for five days. The Night Shelter stayed at St Thomas’ for the next two years, finally moving in April 1990.


Fourth & Fifth Years. In April 1990 the Bristol Bus Company kindly offered its empty offices and garage workshop in Marlborough Street near the bus station for our use. This move would provide better facilities yet again with much more room to organise.

But first the deep bus inspection pits had to be filled in with tons of sand—the volunteers who helped on that weekend will never ever forget it! The Night Shelter was based here for just over two years until July 1992.


Years Six to Nine. In July 1992 the Night Shelter moved to Unit B Dean Street for the first time rent had to be paid! It was now clear that the Charity itself was really without a long-term home of its own having to move every two years into buildings that were not entirely suitable for its purposes. Furthermore, needing to ask the public for donations to pay a commercial rent was not the best use of their money. Could they instead be asked to fund a permanent home for the Night Shelter? It would need to be purpose-designed to have all the best features of our previous buildings and to meet Bristol City Council planning requirements.


So began the Bristol Night Shelter Project. For three years Ron Harwood-Smith, who became the joint Chairman of the Julian Trust and Caring at Christmas, led the hunt for a suitable warehouse property for us to convert. Surprisingly, after looking at many possibilities, an opportunity arose just across the courtyard from the Dean Street site, in Units D&E! Caring at Christmas purchased this building for £123,000. The Julian Trust then added £121,000 from its funds for the first phase of refurbishment of the building and for planning and publicity costs.


Over the next two years public donations, received by the Bristol Night Shelter Appeal (jointly organised by the Julian Trust and Caring at Christmas), then paid a further £237,000 to complete the refurbishment work. The ventilation system, gas central heating and the toilet/shower block took up the largest proportion of this money. Ferguson Mann Architects were responsible for overseeing this.

July 1996, ten years after its foundation and exactly four years after moving into Unit B, Dean Street, the Julian Trust moved into its new home across the courtyard to Little Bishop Street with facilities that met high standards in environmental health and a 50 year lease from Caring at Christmas. It would of course be wonderful if the need for a Night Shelter had disappeared long before 2046 arrived!


2006 saw the twentieth anniversary of the Julian Trust, culminating in a commemorative reception held at the Council House, College Green. Our founder Meg Grimes was also awarded the Lord Mayor’s Gold Medal.


2011 was not only the 25th anniversary of the Night Shelter, but the year that The Julian Trust received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service! Sadly Meg Grimes died suddenly and was not able to go to the Buckingham Palace reception. This was a huge loss to us, but Meg had gathered a strong team around her who were determined to carry on the work. The Lord Lieutenant, Mrs Mary Prior, came to our AGM that year to present the crystal and certificate from Her Majesty the Queen.

 2013 was another remarkable year. Negotiations between the Julian Trust and Caring at Christmas during 2013, led by their new Chair, Phil Summerhayes, resulted in a radical role reversal! Bristol. Both charities were made stronger and empowered to help the homeless in different ways. None of this could have happened however if not for a benefactor, who wishes to remain anonymous, providing the money for the Julian Trust to buy out Caring in Bristol.

2014 The Julian Trust purchased the building and became the Landlord and Caring at Christmas became the Tenant. This was to the great advantage of both charities and had the full approval of the Charity Commission. The Julian Trust, a wholly voluntary organisation with no staff wages, was able to spend its income on the maintenance and improvement of the building while Caring at Christmas was able to spend its income on staff wages and a wide range of services to the homeless rebranding itself as Caring in Bristol.


By 2018 the continuing generosity of local businesses, community organisations, faith groups, and many individual citizens had built up our reserves again to such an extent that we were able to carry out major refurbishment works re-building and re-equipping the kitchens and toilet shower block as well as installing fire safety & ventilation improvements. Once again Ferguson Mann Architects were chosen as the Project Managers.


The Julian Trust is registered as a charitable company. Its accounts are subject to an annual independent examination and available to the public. It holds an AGM in November each year. The Company has a guarantor membership of 60 individuals who act rather like shareholders. They elect the Board of Directors / Trustees from amongst their membership.


The Board is also the Management Committee of the Night Shelter. There are 12 Directors who are also Trustees. Each Trustee serves for three years and can stand for re-election for further terms. The Board annually appoints four of its members to the offices of Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary and Treasurer. You can contact the Officers as detailed on our Contact Us page.


The Julian Trust is accountable to the Registrar of Companies, the Charity Commissioners and Bristol City Council. The Julian Trust complies with all the standards on Health & Safety required by Bristol City Council and we have been awarded a 5 Star Food Hygiene Certificate by them. We take advice whenever necessary from Avon Health Authority officials to update our policies.


Since our foundation in 1986 considerable professional help and advice has been received from Clive Westlake of Westlakes Solicitors, now Wards, and from Janet Stone of Stone & Partners Accountants, now Elliott Bunker, some of this has been pro bono for which we are immensely grateful.


We fully participated in the Government’s original consultations on the Rough Sleepers’ Initiative. The Julian Trust is a member of the Bristol Homeless Forum, the Bristol Shelters Steering group and Voscur.


The Julian Trust has contributed to the Survival Handbook and Bristol Homeless Connect, which are printed and website guides to local services for the homeless.

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