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A Christmas homeless event that opens temporary shelters to provide support, services and friendship for people with nowhere to live at Christmas is set for a record number of homeless guests this year.
Crisis at Christmas involves a network of temporary day shelters for homeless people and will run this year from December 23-30. It is understood that there will be up to 10 shelters in London this year, including one for women, another aimed at people coping with alcohol addiction and a rough sleeper’s shelter.
Newcastle’s Crisis Skylight Centre will also open its doors from 8am–8pm on Dec 25 and 26 and for the first time, Crisis at Christmas is coming to Scotland. Edinburgh’s Crisis Skylight Centre will invite 50 guests to its celebrations, though they must be nominated by a support worker.
In London organisers say the shelters are all about offering a bit of Christmas pampering for homeless guests. An army of volunteers offer a range of services, including a medical centre for health advice, dentists, legal and housing advice.
Homeless guests can get a haircut, a pedicure and a massage at the centres. And there are films, arts and crafts and live music.
However, some believe more should be done to provide services for homeless people at Christmas. The Crisis at Christmas service is available for just seven days, and closes four days before some services re-open after the holiday.
Many complain that winter and night shelters, as well as soup runs and other drop-ins, also take a break, which means support options are very limited.
A small number of Christmas shelters run across the country to deal with this gap in services such as the Quaker’s Christmas Shelter in London and the Birmingham Christmas Shelter in the West Midlands. Charities such as the London Mobile Christmas Service also try to fill the gap.
Savvas Panas, CEO of the Pillion Trust, said there was often a gap in provision between when Crisis at Christmas finished and the re-opening of all the shelters across the city. “It is a huge amount of displacement for people," he added. "It’s not just shelters that are closed. It’s also Homeless Persons Units, housing services, addiction services and when your outreach worker is on holiday, your care plan doesn’t follow you.
“It’s a time when people don’t have choices.”
• Find out more about Crisis at Christmas: crisis.org.uk/