Homeless charity braced for Christmas

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Whitechapel Centre sleep out for the homeless. Pic by Josie O’Sullivan © JMU Journalism

Whitechapel Centre sleep out for the homeless fundraising event. Pic by Josie O’Sullivan © JMU Journalism

The head of Liverpool’s Whitechapel Centre for the homeless has told JMU Journalism of the challenges his charity is facing as Christmas approaches.

With temperatures set to plummet and a possibility of snow, organisations are anxious to ensure people are off the streets over the festive season. One charity, Shelter, has warned that 90,000 children alone in the UK are facing Christmas without a home.

Liverpool’s Whitechapel Centre also has its fair share of rough sleepers over the Christmas period. David Carter is the head of the organisation, and he told JMU Journalism: “Last year we worked with 1,100 people who were homeless to find accommodation.”

He also explained that Christmas itself can lead to people becoming homeless, saying: “There are two months with an increase in homelessness, and one is January. This can be the run up to a reconciliation, as there can be conflicts between adults and children or partners.

“Some families also find themselves in absolute debt following Christmas. We try to respond and cater for them, providing accommodation and hot food. The average family can be one pay cheque away from poverty.”

Sleeping rough can be difficult at the best of times, but Mr Carter said that Christmas can be especially tough for the homeless.

He said: “If you’re alone at Christmas it can be extremely lonely.  This media idea of the jovial, ideal family Christmas is there but if you’re that person on the street it’s a very stark reminder of what you haven’t got, especially if you think about just trying to get warm on Christmas Day.”

He also attended a play last Thursday intended to raise awareness of the issues surrounding poverty during Living Wage Week, after which he spoke about the problem of poverty in a community discussion.

He said: “It was really a look at how the play reflects reality, and the manifestation of the effects. New research has shown that the average age of a rough sleeper is 43, and that is a state of absolute poverty.

“Most people we work with have no income or are working for minimum wage. They don’t see the benefits, as the cost of living increases.”

JMU Journalism TV report by Richard Eves

About Samuel Peers, JMU Journalism