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Christmas dinner plea from homeless charity that helped 1,936 in Islington this year

PUBLISHED: 10:00 16 December 2017 | UPDATED: 15:51 18 December 2017

Gavin will be cooking for other homeless people this Christmas Day. Picture: SHP

Gavin will be cooking for other homeless people this Christmas Day. Picture: SHP

Archant

For most of us, Christmas is about spending time with loved ones and indulging ourselves – but for some, it brings an acute feeling of loneliness.

Elaine is another person who has been helped by the SHP this year. Picture: SHP Elaine is another person who has been helped by the SHP this year. Picture: SHP

So as you sit by the fireplace feeling stuffed, spare a thought for people who have no family to spend the holidays with, and no home to decorate.

Better still, why not donate £10 to the Single Homeless Project’s (SHP) campaign and buy someone a Christmas dinner at one of its hostels?

This year the charity has helped 1,936 people in Islington who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. That includes preventing eviction from private tenancies, getting them into treatment for drug or alcohol addiction, mental health support, and helping them find a job. At Christmas, staff and volunteers host parties and cook dinners for them.

One person who will be helping out is 49-year-old Gavin. Since leaving a care home at the age of 18 and moving to Islington, Gavin has struggled with his mental health and substance abuse. In January, he moved into one of the charity’s hostels in Highbury when his supported housing flat was closed due to lack of funding.

An SHP Christmas party last year. Picture: SHP An SHP Christmas party last year. Picture: SHP

Since then, Gavin has got his first job in 15 years at the Union Chapel and is hoping to have his own flat in the New Year.

Christmas is always a tough time for him, and he says he often spends the day thinking about his family and looking at old photo albums. But this year he will be spend the day volunteering, so other homeless people can enjoy the day a bit more.

He said: “I’ll be cooking for people, and washing their clothes – making sure they’ve got something to look forward to.”

Gavin is more than happy to help out – despite the feelings it brings, he loves the festive atmosphere around Christmas. “My favourite thing about Christmas is the lights,” he said. “Reminds me of being a kid. I like wandering down Oxford Street and looking in all the posh shop windows. I look at all the things and think to myself: ‘One day.’”

Figures obtained by the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (Chain) show that, in the six months between April and September, 101 people slept rough in Islington.

The campaign, A Year of Hope, aims to make 2018 a turning point for even more people.

“My new year’s resolution is to get stronger, and be content in life,” Gavin added. “I think some doors will open up again for me in the new year. I’d love to get my own place. The thing I’m looking forward to the most is having my own front door key.”

Another person helped by SHP is Elaine Buckle, who went through a “very dark period” after being kicked out of her home as a teenager.

Elaine was referred into a hostel and then onto SHP’s Islington Floating Support, which helped her back into college. There, she set about fulfilling her dream of becoming a designer. She got her first sewing machine in 2013 and this year had her creations exhibited at New York Fashion Week. “I’d always dreamt of being a designer, but never thought it would be possible,” she said. “I have so many hopes for the future now.”

With homelessness across the capital rising all the time, the charity’s work is more vital than ever. “One thousand people sleep rough in London every night,” said Steve Rylance, senior manager at SHP. “A recent report showed one in 59 people in London is now homeless. The housing crisis is making things worse and a lot of people are being made homeless because of tenancies ending.

“It’s easy to feel helpless but the good news is people can and do recover from homelessness. With the right support they can turn their lives around and we help people to do that.

“Christmas is a tough time because people can feel all of the emotions more acutely. What we try to do is give people companionship or social activities and support so they feel they are not alone.”

How to donate

The SHP says it wants to make 2018 a year of hope and positivity for Islington’s homeless people – but it is in desperate need of support.

A £10 donation to the A Year of Hope campaign will pay for Christmas dinner for one person, and boost their confidence ahead of the new year.

Alternatively, a £20 offering will enable the SHP to introduce therapeutic sessions for a homeless person struggling with their mental health.

Donate £50 to give someone access to education and training that could help them get back on their feet, or if you’re feeling especially generous, the SHP say £75 could help find someone a home or job so they can leave homelessness behind.

To donate, visit shp.org.uk/donate or text £10 MICA02 to 70070.

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