With the season’s festive frivolities and general jolliness in full swing, it is easy to forget that not everyone will be having such a merry time. There are many people without a cosy home and family around them, for whatever reason, and now is the time they will feel it most. Pre-holiday deadlines, panicked present buying and drinking a few too many beverages has inevitably been taking up most working Londoners’ headspace, which hasn’t left much time for philanthropy. Yet if you have the inclination and a few hours to spare, there are simple ways to get involved. Here are five London projects where you can give your time or donations, now and beyond Christmas.
Homeless London provides a list of 2012/13 winter shelters and homeless projects across London. The shelters always looking for extra help and you can contact them directly. Examples of local projects are…
Croydon – Nightwatch
A solely volunteer-run project, Croydon Nightwatch acts as a point of contact for the homeless and vulnerable to provide some much needed stability in their lives. Every night of the year, a different small group of volunteers heads out onto the streets of Croydon to offer support and distribute goods. If you don’t fancy the night-time expeditions, you can also donate food, clothing, toiletries and other household items which are essential for these people’s well-being.
Hackney – Hackney Winter Night Shelter
The Hackney Winter Night Shelter is open until December 23 and will reopen between December 30 and March 28 2013. The shelter hosts 25 guests each night, providing a hot meal, a bed and cooked breakfast in the morning, as well as helping them to find long-term accommodation for the future. HWNS needs volunteers to help welcome the guests, cook dinner and breakfast and stay overnight. Put your name forward by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other places to try…
Crisis at Christmas
Crisis is the national charity for single homeless people, who work tirelessly to prevent homelessness and to help those who are already living on the streets. You can volunteer for Crisis at Christmas centres by registering online and signing up for shifts, or donate to their Reserve a Place at Christmas campaign which will provide each person with hot meals, health checks and year-round access to Crisis Skylight, their education, training and employment centres. You can also volunteer at Crisis Skylight London, based near Brick Lane, all through the year helping with a whole range of activities including art, drama and music workshops.
The American Church in London
Based right in the city centre on Tottenham Court Road, the American Church in London runs a soup kitchen most days of the year, including Saturdays. They aim to help the homeless, elderly and poor by providing free meals, clothes and toiletries. They always need donations of food and clothing and are currently seeking volunteers to help fundraise for their ‘Footsteps of the Homeless’ campaign. If you have the energy, you can help The Soup Kitchen by doing a sponsored run or walk in your own time to raise money for their new homeless shelter.
And for the less proactive amongst us, it’s still possible to help homeless and badly housed children without even leaving your sofa. By paying to record your little one an online personalised Christmas message from Santa, you will raise money to help Shelter provide accommodation for the kids in need at all times of the year. They’ve got plenty of other easy ways to support Shelter at their website dedicated to festive ideas: shelter.org.uk. Meg Pruce
Find out what else is going on in London at timeout.com/christmas.