Christmas is traditionally a time to surround yourself with family and friends and cosy up by the fire with a warm drink.
But for thousands of homeless people sleeping rough in the snow, the festive period can be a difficult time of year.
Kingston’s Homelessness Strategy, set up by the Council to tackle the growing problem of homelessness in the area, estimated in 2003 that around 1,150 people were homeless within the Borough of Kingston, and this number has increased significantly following the economic downturn.
KU students are being urged by the university’s Volunteering department to help ensure a merry Christmas for those on the street.
Kingston Winter Night Shelter, now in its second year, has been re-established and will be run by volunteers. Funded by local churches, it is the only shelter in the area available to those who sleep rough, and the Volunteering department hope that students staying in Kingston might be able to help out.
Kingston Churches Action on Homelessness estimates that the number of homeless people in the local area at around 2,000. In the year 2009/10, they had 2,103 repeat clients – although these include those looking for housing advice.
KCAH runs a Winter Night Shelter programme, that houses 12 “guests” between early December and February. Those who come to the shelter who cannot be housed will be refered to Crisis Aid Christmas in London.
Rachel Makin, Project Coordinator for Kingston Winter Night Shelter, explained that, while applications for volunteers have closed this year, it is vital for the local community to remain involved in helping the homeless. She told of the charities previous successes: “Last year the shelter housed over 60 guests over a three month period and managed to find more sustainable accommodation for about 70 per cent of them.”
Lucy Kerrigan, Volunteer Co-ordinator for KU, hopes that students will participate in community volunteering throughout the Christmas holidays, and highlighted a number of festive volunteering that some have already taken part in. These include Santa Fun Run Stewarding, stewarding at Kingston Christmas Lights Switch On and building a Santa’s grotto for momentum and Kingston Hospital.
Those who wish to learn more about volunteering opportunities in the local area should contact firstname.lastname@example.org