The decorations are down, and shoppers walk quickly along the road hitting the sales and re stocking their food cupboard after the Christmas festivities. Heads down to protect their faces from the elements. Certain things became apparent. What a contrast from three weeks before.
Sat quietly on the pavement a lonely rough sleeper stares into a cup of coffee looking cold and withdrawn. Three weeks before many people would stop to offer them food, money and gifts with the Christmas festivities approaching. This time shoppers walk past with their January sale bags or lost in phone calls, thoughts and conversations. Christmas is now a distant memory and the season of goodwill over. However, should it be? This is the scene all around the country, however COVID has changed so much for homelessness, but has it changed our habits when it comes to supporting them throughout the year.
A rough sleeper’s life has not changed in those three weeks, they are still cold, still rough sleeping, still estranged from loved ones, still lonely. Christmas is known as “The Season of Goodwill” since the well-known Dickens story of Scrooge, depicting selfishness turning into kindness and a change of heart. However, are most of us guilty of forgetting and moving on from the festive cheer and kindness to all ‘man’? Homelessness is not just for Christmas, but it seems to have become a Christmas phenomenon and for centuries we see it as a part of Christmas joy.
We have been very touched and humbled by the outpouring of kindness and love toward the rough sleepers and homeless throughout Christmas and the festive season. We have been inundated and overwhelmed by the wonderful generosity of the local community this Christmas. Our Wishlist has been greatly received by so many and all that generosity will be given and used to help the homeless and rough sleepers throughout the winter and into 2022. We are in CRISIS as a county, country and world. At this time, it is easy for us all to have to ‘charity starts at home’ especially as we are all struggling with the pandemic and everything that it has thrown as every one of us…nobody has been untouched by it in some way.
January has arrived and the phones have gone quiet, the offers of fundraising, donations and support has stopped. Do our outbursts of generosity at Christmas appease our conscience that we have done something good for the festive season and for the year? So why do most of us stop when Christmas is over?
Unfortunately, we had to turn away so many offers of help for Christmas week, and we apologise for that but want to explain. Our volunteers go through vetting and training procedures, they are DBS checked and we do not allow volunteers to come into the sessions until these procedures have taken place. Well-meaning people are wonderful, but we must consider our client’s safety and the reason why we want to spend time on one day of the year or over the festive period and then forget about it the other 364 days. Volunteering makes us feel good and we have the need to “give something back.” Why one day?
We feed up to 120 people a week, every week over our three sessions, we provide outreach and support throughout the week, every week. Homelessness is here every day Christmas is not. Our work to support and help all the rough sleepers, homeless and vulnerable in our community will continue tirelessly throughout the year regardless of the season.
We ask that the amazing support shown from our caring local community carries on all year around. There are many charities who work throughout the year, often struggling for money, volunteers and specific donations. We ask you to contact the charity of your choice, talk to them see what they need. Little gestures throughout the year will go a long way to help people help others.
Written by Meryl Praill Founder of Newbury Soup Kitchen