A Brief History

The Julian Trust started life in 1986 when a small group of concerned individuals 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 needed to provide the first rung on the ladder out of homelessness.

Pennywell Rd

Volunteers and money were required. So the news spread, mainly by word of mouth, and the public responded. But nothing could happen until a building could be found from which the Night Shelter could operate. By September 1986 the organisation had been 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. 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.

St Thomas Street

In December 1987 the Church of England made available the hall and other rooms within St. Thomas Church near Bristol Bridge. This provided a larger dormitory, a better kitchen and sleeping quarters for volunteers in the bell tower! At the same time another new charity, Caring at Christmas, was formed by members of the Julian Trust and other interested individuals. Together, the first Christmas Shelter was opened offering 24-hour provision for five days. The Night Shelter stayed at St Thomas’ for the next two years, finally moving in April 1990.

Marlborough Street

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 provided 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 forget it! The Night Shelter was based here for just over two years until July 1992.


In July 1992 the Night Shelter moved to Dean Street. For the first time rent had to be paid! It was now clear that the Night Shelter itself was really without a long-term home of its own, moving 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 real 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.

Little Bishop Street

The hunt was on for a suitable warehouse property to convert and surprisingly, after looking at many possibilities, an opportunity arose just across the courtyard from the Dean Street site. Caring at Christmas purchased the building for £123,000. The Julian Trust contributed £121,000 from its funds for refurbishment of the building and for planning and publicity costs. 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.

In July 1996, after exactly four years in Dean Street, the Julian Trust moved into its new home 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!

2006 saw the twentieth anniversary of the Julian Trust, culminating in the Annual General Meeting  followed by a commerative reception held at the Council House, College Green.  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.

The Julian Trust remains committed to serving the needs of homeless and vulnerable people in Bristol, which it is able to do thanks to the continued support from many individuals, community and faith groups, businesses and enterprises throughout Bristol and beyond.  Together we continue to make  a difference.