Thousands of homeless people will have a better Christmas than they were dreading thanks to a campaign which offers a hot meal, a helping hand and hope that the coming year is going to be a better one.
Ask anyone about their experiences of crises at Christmas and you’re likely to get a parade of often hilarious anecdotes about emergency turkey defrosting in the shower, dogs unwrapping the choccie elements of the under-the-tree present pile and a champagne cork leaving uncle Trevor in A&E with a black eye.
And while we wouldn’t think of belittling the anxiety caused by the prospect of 12 people fitting around an occasional table featuring a distinct lack of Christmas crackers (which were abandoned at the checkout on Christmas Eve), we can probably all agree that most of us wouldn’t know a real crisis if it slapped us in the face with a Christmas pudding, wearing a Santa hat.
The campaign Crisis at Christmas from Crisis is a lifeline for thousands of homeless people across the UK, offering support, companionship and vital services over the holiday period. This year, there will be centres opening across London, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Coventry.
Although the charity provide immediate help for homeless people at a critical time, Crisis at Christmas staff also make sure their work doesn’t stop there. Guests are encouraged to explore and take up what can be life-changing opportunities on offer all year round at Crisis centres across the country.
But as ever, this important seasonal campaign is only realised thanks to the generosity of thousands of supporters, volunteers, individuals, community organisations and companies who donate money, time, skills, goods and services.
“Christmas can be a lonely, isolating time for those without a home to call their own,” says Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis.
“This year has seen an alarming rise in the number of rough sleepers in England, all of whom deserve the shelter, companionship and support many of us take for granted at Christmas. That’s why the compassion and dedication of Crisis at Christmas volunteers is needed more than ever.
“By helping to make Christmas happen for homeless people, volunteers can not only bring some much-needed cheer to our guests but also set them up with the chance to have a more positive year ahead through the life-changing services at our Crisis Skylight centres.”
Long-time volunteer Kerry Smith adds: “I started volunteering at Crisis four years ago after signing up as a general volunteer. Giving a little bit of my time to help others felt like the right thing to do.
“From the second I walked in I knew I had made the right decision. Seeing all the services available to those who needed it most and the enormous part the volunteers play in making it all happen blew me away!”
Anyone who would like to support Crisis’s work this festive season should know that £22.29 could reserve a place at a Crisis at Christmas centre for someone who is homeless, giving them a hot meal, comfort and support, and the chance to make this new year a new start.
You can do this for someone by visiting www.crisis.org.uk/reserve to reserve a place now.
• General statistics show 2,714 people slept rough on any one night during 2014 – a 55 per cent rise on 2010. Local agencies also reported 7,581 people slept rough in London alone throughout 2014/15 – a 16 per cent rise on the previous year and more than double the figure of 3,673 in 2009/10.
• Rough sleepers are 13 times more likely to be a victim of violence – the majority of which is perpetrated by the general public.
• Last year, 4,311 guests came to Crisis centres in London, Edinburgh and Newcastle combined.
• More than 9,000 volunteers were needed to make this happen, including 100 who were themselves clients of Crisis with experience of homelessness.
• This Christmas, Crisis at Christmas will use 150 tonnes of food and beverages altogether, including 140 turkeys, 7,200 mince pies and 40,000 tea bags.