Homelessness is Not Just For Christmas

It is genuinely heartening to see so many appeals and so much coverage in the media about homelessness in the run up to Christmas. But, like the title says…

The BBC Radio 4 Appeal for St Martins in London was deeply moving and part of the £1m raised is used for the Vicar’s Relief Fund which our front line workers make appeals to in helping people in urgent need of financial relief.

Circa 1977/78 I was on the sponsored walk to Canterbury to support Crisis at Christmas as well as spending one of my best ever Christmas Days calling the after dinner bingo to several hundred guests at the Open Christmas at Southwark Cathedral. (The entertainment and the fundraising is considerably more sophisticated these days!)

Christmas was always the hardest time for people without a home, friends and family. I spent one Christmas Eve in the Eighties on suicide watch at a shelter in Swansea with Brian to whom Christmas was the most painful reminder of all that he had failed at and lost and would never have. Every lit window he trudged past at dusk around the suburbs of Sketty was a mocking tableau of happy family life. He wouldn’t hear my assurances that life on the other side of the pane was unlikely to be sweetness and light.

Homelessness is not just about being without your own home. It’s also about being without ‘your own place’; being an outsider without any sense of belonging.

Cyrenians is all about community. The young people living together at Ferry Road and Cyrenians Farm, the sixty-odd people working together at the Good Food Depot, the people pulled back from the brink of homelessness and reconnected with community services, the at-risk young people reconnected through mediation with their parents… So much of the good stuff that happens is through connecting people to each other, to the people around them and to a sense of purpose and belonging.

Unlike other charities, what we’ve not been very good at is asking for money – not just at Christmas but all year round. It’s something we’re resolved to be less shy about in 2011, but never losing focus on what it’s for. So if you’d like to get us off to a flying start….

Donate – Edinburgh Cyrenians [on workwithus.org]

NB: The picture is some of the many at last week’s Good Food Programme Christmas Party

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