Crisis Christmas

I’m not normally one for habits or routine, but Christmas is an exception – it’s one time when I’m happy, if not actually quite comforted, to do the same stuff I do every year. Traditions are part of the festive magic.

One of my traditions, which started for me when I was at Uni, is to go up to London for Crisis Christmas – the annual homeless shelters event organised by Crisis.

Crisis Christmas provides over a thousand people with a warm, dry place to spend the festive period, and somewhere to share a meal and watch some Christmas telly – the stuff that we all take for granted.

But it’s more than that. People from various specialties and professions volunteer their services, making the Crisis shelters also an opportunity to see a doctor, get a healthcheck – even an X-ray (useful for detecting TB), see a vet (important to the many homeless people who have dogs), see a dentist, a hairdresser, a chiropodist (vital to a group of people whose feet are so often cold and damp, where even getting trench foot is not uncommon), an optician, a pharmacist, get help writing a letter or filling in forms, talk with advisors such as benefits advisors, housing advisors, legal advisors, and loads more.

This is a big deal – when I used to work at the homeless shelter in Bath, I knew some of our clients who would travel to London at Christmas for Crisis. It was that unique an opportunity. Think of how many times you’ve heard people say that they can’t get to see a dentist. Try registering with a dentist when you don’t have money, or a fixed address. And it can be even harder for people with limited literacy – filling in application forms can be a barrier in itself.

For many, they are more than just a shelter – it’s their one chance all year to get access to these basic services.

It must be a logistical nightmare to run, and Crisis do an amazing job pulling it all together. It’s helped by thousands of volunteers. We’re there to help with whatever needs doing.

For example, being an assistant for the chiropodist, cleaning client’s feet before they go in to see the chiropodist. Or being an assistant to the vet, washing dogs before they go in to see them. Or helping in the kitchen, cooking a meal for hundreds of people. Or serving teas and coffees. Or sorting bedding, or cleaning the showers and toilets, or keeping the place clean and tidy… Or, perhaps most importantly, taking time to talk to the guests. There’s always a lot to do.

It’s often tiring. But at the same time, surprisingly re-energizing. You meet a load of cool new people, and get to be a part of something that really embodies the Christmas spirit.

It’s easy to be cynical about these things. And in many ways, it is a shame that it would be so hard to run anything like this at any other time of year. But it’s important not to let that detract from the awesome and inspiring achievement that Crisis Christmas is, year after year. It was a fantastic way to end my Christmas.

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4 Responses to “Crisis Christmas”

  1. James Thomas says:

    Well done Dale,

    Sounds like a great idea. Next year you should blog this beforehand, to give other people the chance to volunteer.

  2. dale says:

    Thanks, mate. Vero did kinda do this for me, but even so, it’s a good point 🙂

  3. Rob says:

    Give me a shout next year when you go Dale and I’ll come up with you if that’s okay.

  4. dale says:

    Rob – brill, that’d be great.