They say nobody should be alone at Christmas. Whoever they are, they’ve got a point.
If you live in a UK city right now it’s pretty hard to leave the house without your heart breaking. Britain’s homeless problem has grown exponentially in the last half decade and looks set to continue in the same direction if nothing changes. The culmination of economic woes, unforgiving housing laws and harsh social policies has had a devastating impact, hence the depressing realities on any major high street.
But don’t just take my word for it.
“Thousands of people across the country are struggling to keep a roof over their heads in a housing market that is no longer fit for purpose, while cuts to housing benefit and homelessness services have left the safety net in tatters,” explains Matt Downie, Director of Policy at homeless charity Crisis.
“Meanwhile, homelessness has risen for the sixth year running, with a 9 per cent jump in the number of households accepted as homeless and an 11 per cent rise in the number of households in temporary accommodation.”
It’s a grim reality, and Christmas is a particularly difficult time of year for those in need. According to Crisis, in 2015, while most of us were gorging on mulled wine, turkey and general cheer, more than one in four people who do not have a home spent the 25th of December alone, with two-thirds expecting to be without family and friends this time.
Perhaps more horrifyingly, 71 per cent admitted to being ‘ashamed’ of their homeless status, and the vast majority reported being treated differently, or feeling invisible to others.
This epidemic of loneliness amongst some of society’s most vulnerable is especially troubling given the deep-rooted links between homelessness and mental health problems in general. If you need evidence, around 70 per cent of those using homeless services in England also suffer from psychological conditions.
Every year, Crisis opens its doors at Christmas to thousands across the country, providing them with companionship, shelter, food and vital services. Reassuringly, this isn’t the only offer of this kind on the table, either, as the following list goes to show – feel free to add any I’ve missed in the comments section, and help spread the real meaning of this weekend.
The Alexandra in Wimbledon is opening doors to anyone who is alone for any reason (full turkey dinner and a beer).
At the Shish restaurant in Sidcup co-manager Irfan Can Genc and his team are trying to make sure ‘no one eats alone on Christmas Day!’- the homeless (and elderly) receive a three course meal between 12PM and 6PM.
Cummin Up Caribbean in Lewisham extends an invitation to everyone for a meal and company.
A huge big festive coffee hug to everyone who has embraced our little effort to tackle loneliness this Christmas Day. We…
With a Facebook post that has now been viewed more than 200,000 times, Home Coffee on Albert Road in Southsea welcomes anyone who is lonely for hot drinks and mince pies on Christmas Day morning.
Chelmsford’s Marylou’s Cafe will provide the works for homeless and lonely locals for a fourth year running.
In Margate the TY-8 Restaurant and local man of God Father John Taylor offer full dinner for all and will be giving out gifts.
The Ashford Vineyard, Ashford, has room for 90 people and aims to give them all Christmas Dinner for the second year running, and there is no criteria for a place.
The Market House Inn, Glastonbury, welcomes homeless, elderly and vulnerable people for free lunch and hot drink.
In Newquay, Kirribilli Guest House owner Raj Odedra is welcoming homeless people from 1PM onwards for food and cheer.
Birmingham Central Mosque is running a full soup kitchen every day between 24th December and 1st January (inclusive) from 5PM and 6PM, with the plan being to establish a permanent provision in 2017.
The Lord Nelson in Derby will be offering homeless and underprivileged people free food and non-alcoholic mulled wine, with neighbours asked to donate money and any unwanted clothes or toiletries.
The Old Nag’s Head in Spinningfields, Manchester city centre, is giving the homeless free food and drink on Christmas Day, and has also invited a hairdresser to provide a complimentary cut.
FC United of Manchester are offering use of all facilities including showers and towels, with free toiletries and a cooked breakfast included.
Life Cafe says ‘everyone is welcome’ for breakfast, lunch and take away dinner (9AM – 4PM).
St George’s Crypt is open to all (i.e. not just residents) from morning to afternoon for free Christmas dinner and outreach services (11AM – 1PM, dinner at 12PM).
Mill Hill Chapel is open from 6PM for the Supporting People In Need Christmas Buffet.
Yummys Scouse Christmas aims to provide 1,000 meals across the region, locations are as follows; Liverpool 6 Community Association in Anfield, Holy Spirit Community Centre in Dovecot, St Columba in Hunts Cross, Toxteth The Florrie, Frontline Church in Wavertree, The Whitechapel Centre in the city, and The Joseph Lappin Centre.
Lytham St Annes has The Pavillion Cafe open for all – those that can are asked to bring food.
Dope Burger in Hull will offer mince pies, warm refreshments, scarves, hats, gloves and a good feed from 10AM until 12PM.
The Golden Lion in Todmorden has a ‘pay what you can’ Christmas Dinner with vegan and vegetarian options available.
Common Grounds Cafe will provide free Christmas dinners from 12PM – 3PM.
Upstairs At Joe’s, Cushendall, is looking to repeat last year’s Christmas Day, which saw 100 meals made and distributed to those in need.
Crossfire Trust, Darkley, is laying on food and company for anyone who will otherwise be alone. Coffee and mince pies from 11AM, Christmas dinner at 1.30PM, and carols.
Trinity Hall, Letterkenny, is open from 2PM – 5PM to give free meals to anyone who is homeless or lonely.
Newry District Gateway Club host A Bite And Banter For Christmas, offering bites and banter from 1PM – 5PM ‘whatever your situation is’.
The Captain’s Table will be serving up turkey and trimmings for all from 2PM – 4PM.
Pioneering not-for-profit organisation Social Bite’s Aberdeen cafe is providing Christmas dinner for rough sleepers on 25th December.
Dumfries and Galloway / Perthshire
Homeless people, and anyone who relies on food parcels, can stay at the Moffat Manor Holiday Park between 20 and 27th December for free, with entertainment and meals also included.
The River of Life Church, Dumfries, is also opening its doors for food and festivities to anyone alone or in need – 2016 marks the 13th years this has happened here.
250 vulnerable and underprivileged people are invited to Hibernian FC’s Easter Road Stadium for carols, Christmas dinner and general merriment.
Candy Bar, Montpeliers, Rick’s, Tiger Lily and Indigo Yard have been asking customers and guests to gift money for Christmas dinners over the last few weeks. Proceeds are going to Social Bite, which last year managed to raise enough money to feed homeless people at all of its Scottish sites for an entire year thanks to this campaign.
As in Aberdeen and Edinburgh, Social Bite’s two ‘sandwich shops with a difference’ are offering free meals for the homeless on 25th December.
Cafe owner Jen McKay is putting up a marquee on Paisley High Street so she can welcome anyone who cannot afford a meal on Christmas Day – over 400 people have volunteered to help, and donations have come from as far afield as America and Australia.
Chilli Pink in Rhyl, Chish N Fips in Llandudno, and Corwen’s Abdul’s Spice are offering free meals, with local residents apparently so moved by the gesture they are donating extra.
St. Thomas Parish Church will be providing a free Christmas dinner from 11AM – 2PM with entertainment.
Griddles Community Cafe in Clydach is putting on a full four course dinner come 25th December for anyone who feels alone, including homeless people.
If you want to help the homeless, Crisis have loads of useful advice about what you can do on their website.
And if you’re feeling lonely or depressed you can reach out to the Samaritans as part of their Real Christmas campaign.
Age UK are also running a campaign to make sure no elderly people are lonely this festive period, and you can help out here.
This article is part of a series of stories on The Forgotten people at Christmas.