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Caring for the homeless at Christmas

December 12, 2011

I’ve been to visit the charity Caring at Christmas to see them getting ready to give Bristol’s homeless an enjoyable festive season.  They’re located at the Julian Trust shelter in St Pauls, which provides beds all year round.  But from Christmas Eve through to 2nd January the building is open 24 hours a day.  There will be extra beds, with 5o people staying for the whole of the holiday period.  They will be joined by three times as many people who will pass through for some of the meals and entertainment.

The volunteers were getting the place ready, cleaning, laying out beds and sorting out the donations of food and clothes that pour in at this time of year.  Amazingly, between now and when they tidy up after new years day more than 5oo Bristolians will have volunteered some of their time.

The charity also relies on about 1,500 donors for all the food.  Some comes from people bringing in a few tins they’ve cleared out of their kitchen cupboards.  Schools, clubs, workplaces and churches have collections.  Local companies also donate.  For instance last year Miss Millies did one complete meal run of chicken and chips.  This year Yeo Valley Dairies will be giving 600 pints of milk.  The store room is already stacked high with shelves full of tins and wheelie bins full of cereal boxes and tea bags!

As well as meals the people visiting the centre will be entertained by films, games and visiting bands.  There will be a chance to see a doctor and various other health care needs will be met.  There will also be barbers volunteering their services and even a head masseur.  The centre has to be alcohol and drug free.  The toilets have blue lights to make it harder for junkies to find veins to shoot up…

Of course what really matters is not that people get a nice end to 2011 but that they get a better life in 2012.  Most of the people who will use the centre are not homeless in the sense that they sleep rough.  Rather they are the “hidden homeless” who are staying at friends (sofa surfers) or even sleeping in their cars.  Everyone will get advice on Bristol’s wide range of services for people without a permanent home of their own.  They will get a survival handbook detailing all the advice and support agencies in the city.

During 2011 I have met several homeless charities.  I opened the new media training centre at the Foyer and had lunch with people at the Salvation Army in Wade Street.  Shelter have told me about all the problems faced by people who are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless. I’ve also been out early in the morning with the rough sleepers team from St Mungos.  As well as their core staff and premises, all these charities have a team of volunteers.  So maybe as the end of the year approaches, a new year resolution could be to find a charity that you can support.

You can find out more about Caring at Christmas here:

8 Comments leave one →
  1. December 12, 2011 11:21 am

    So good to read that you take a real interest in charities, especially your local ones for homeless people. This time of year must be horrendous for rough sleepers and isolated people. The Christmas arrangements in St. Pauls are admirable in this age of ‘I’m all right jack’ attitudes.

    Throwing money at charities, although they need money, is easy. Giving time is priceless. Without the staff and volunteers these things would not be provided. At least we can sleep well over the festive period knowing that we’ve done all we can to help people less fortunate than us have a safe, warm and happy time, whichever charities we support 🙂

  2. rosemary permalink
    December 13, 2011 8:32 pm

    If only you and your colleagues had done something to check the reckless increase in the population, we would not have these tragic problems to quite this extent. Years of throwing indigenous people on the scrapheap in the knowledge that better educated and better mannered people could always be imported have set a time bomb ticking.

  3. ChrsBury permalink
    December 14, 2011 1:54 pm

    Homelessness is a kind of life style for people like me. Most of the time it is not forced on me. I created the situation, to be homeless. Please do mind this is my own opinion.

    I enjoyed it. I worked while I was homeless in 1997 for 3 years, after getting kicked out of the house I was living, in St Michael’s Park, as the Univercity wanted that Church owned ground for a bank etc.. I slept in Downs, Lee woods and lots of other places eg. goods wagons which used to lie around under the Cumberland basin road complex. I never had a bath or a shower, during that period, but i always changed my clothes twice a day. Once when I wake uo, once when I go to sleep.

    Then in 2003 I wanted a council flat, and applied for one, to find out that I am at the bottom of the pile as a single individual with no special needs. So I let go of my three bed house in Easton (I felt guilty) which the Magitrates granted me indefinite tenure at £ 550. fixed. I lived in a garage for next few years until the good people in Salvation Army, Wade St gave me a room. Now I have a United Housing association flat.

    Do you think I am likey to go homeless again. Yes i would if I need any practice in me old age, and needs occur in my life.

  4. December 15, 2011 9:48 pm

    My sister and brother-in-law are working and living in a Christian hostel/community in Leicester. Every year they give their Christmas Day to the men who reside there because these guys mostly have nowhere else to go, or have burned bridges because of addiction and homelessness. I miss having a family Christmas on the day itself, but it’s good to get together a few days after, and definitely worth it if those men can have people around them to share the joy of the day. It’s hard being an addict in any year, I think.

    Hope yours is a happy Christmas, Stephen!

    • December 16, 2011 11:20 pm

      hope you have a great Christmas too, even if it’s delayed by a day or so…your sister is doing a wonderful thing.

  5. Chris Bury permalink
    December 16, 2011 1:48 pm

    I like to add a bit more to my comment earlier.

    I my self worked in soup kitchens in my free time in the 1980’s. I have high regard for the people who give their free time to organize places to sleep and food, for the homeless people. Thank you one and all.

  6. Paul Bemmy Down permalink
    December 17, 2011 4:14 pm

    One wrong decision, one piece of misfortune, or just events themselves, can put any of us in this situation. I do feel for people who were misled into believing the good times would last forever, and took on far more debt than was wise. Perhaps a lesson to politicians that statements made for their personal benefit, can have dire consequences for others. The report from the FSA was just a confirmation of what had already been exposed. What I don’t understand is why, with most of those responsible now gone, what are Balls and Milliband doing still around?

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