That grant I got off St Martin’s gave me an identity… That is what I am, who I am, and what I can do: that gave me the identity I needed. It’s changed my life. Without that I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing, helping other people out.
To most people in the UK, Christmas is a time of warmth and excitement.
It’s the cosiness of your living room, glimmering with tinsel and illuminated by fairy lights.
It’s tucking into a huge, mouth-watering roast then lazing on the couch with zero guilt.
It’s the fresh Boxing Day walk with your family and loved ones.
But for those facing or currently experiencing homelessness, it can be a time of loneliness, instability, and sadness.
With your help, St Martin-in-the-Fields Charity aims to change that.
Here’s how you can help people experiencing homelessness at Christmas, and bring joy to someone’s life this festive season.
1. The BBC Radio 4 Christmas Appeal
Every year, St Martin’s Charity teams up with BBC Radio 4 for our annual Christmas Appeal to help people towards a safer and more secure future.
Your donations fund vital services, such as The Vicar’s Relief Fund (VRF).
The VRF provides emergency financial support to help those at risk of losing their home, or to help them find a new place to live.
It helps people like Austin, who became homeless following a motorcycle accident that left him with serious injuries. Struggling with depression, he began drinking, which eventually led him to lose his job and then his home.
“I had days when I couldn’t get out of bed. I was in that much pain… I was doing me night shift and going home and just drinking. And the drinking got so bad I ended up losing my job, couldn’t pay the bills, lost my accommodation and ended up homeless.”
But through the financial support of the VRF and his own strength and determination, he was able to find his own place.
Austin is now looking forward to spending another Christmas in his own home, off the streets in warmth and comfort. He now focuses his time helping others experiencing or at risk of homelessness – and he’s happy to have the opportunity to give back.
“The Vicar’s Relief Fund – it didn’t just stop with me, it’s now helping the people that I’m helping. It’s not just a one-off payment to help one person, there’s a knock-on effect and you don’t know how many people you are going to help. People can get out and do it with that little bit of backing. You get a little help somewhere, it could lead to bigger things in the future. Look at the difference in what I’m doing now.”
Following the BBC Radio 4 Appeal broadcast last year, Austin recalls how his Mum phoned him in floods of tears, overwhelmed by how far he had come. In his words, the grant gave him an identity.
“That grant I got off St Martin’s gave me an identity… That is what I am, who I am, and what I can do: that gave me the identity I needed. It’s changed my life. Without that I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing, helping other people out.”
2. Join the St Martin’s Charity newsletter
Perhaps, at this stage, you know you want to help people experiencing homelessness but don’t know where to start.
It’s a big decision and something to carefully consider.
That’s why we recommend joining our newsletter.
In the run up to Christmas, we send out the latest updates on how your donations have changed lives.
We cover some of the vital work you can help us to do and share the stories of the people you can help.
People like Jason and Louise, who were living with Jason’s mum but found themselves with nowhere to go after his relationship with his mother deteriorated. They were soon facing the tough reality of a Christmas on the streets.
Louise has lived with a disability since her childhood, and Jason has suffered with mobility issues and chronic pain since a motorbike accident, so they needed somewhere without stairs.
That’s when, with your support, St Martin’s Charity came in.
St Martin’s Charity was soon able to find them a home just in time for Christmas.
Thanks to your generosity, they had a peaceful Christmas surrounded by family. On Christmas day, they spent the afternoon with their son, daughter-in-law, and their grandkids at their house, before having them all over to their bungalow on Boxing Day.
Giving at Christmas doesn’t just help individuals – it unites families and brings laughter and warmth to many lives. Jason and Louise told us how much they love having their grandkids to visit.
“Now it is looking more like a home, they sleep over because they feel it is more like their place as well now, don’t they? So yes, it is good. They wear you out, but they are brilliant. They are so funny.”
Join our newsletter for twice-a-year updates on how you can help people experiencing homelessness.
3. Other ways to help people experiencing homelessness at Christmas
While donations can really help charities allocate funds to the people that need it most, you may not have the resources to donate.
Fortunately, there are other ways you can help people who are at risk of or currently experiencing homelessness this festive season.
To help locally, you could donate food to your local food bank. To find food banks in your area, The Trussell Trust have a useful food bank search tool.
Once you’ve found one near you, simply check out their website to see which items they’re in need of at the moment. With rising utility costs, many are forced to make the tough decision between food and heating, while still trying to keep up with rent.
Food banks can really make a difference to those who are financially struggling this Christmas.
If you have spare time, volunteer. There are various ways you can volunteer, such as soup kitchens, fundraising events, and frontline support.
If you’d like to find out the various ways you can volunteer, get in touch with your local organisations that are supporting people experiencing homelessness to see how you can help.
Kindness costs nothing and makes a huge impact to people’s lives.
If you see a person experiencing homelessness on the street, stop and say, “Hello”, or simply send a smile their way, if you feel comfortable doing so.
Sometimes a friendly chat and well wishes can make a big difference to someone’s day.
While Christmas is a time for giving, sadly, homelessness doesn’t start and end at Christmas.
If you’d like to explore how you can help people throughout the year, please check out our guide, ‘How To Help People Experiencing Homelessness‘.
Thanks again for your support and…