As the countdown to Christmas begins in Brighton and Hove, the homeless services in the city will be preparing to serve those who find themselves spending the festive period on the street.
I’m currently interning at Off the Fence, a Christian charity that reaches out to the local community and in particular, marginalised individuals. One of our main projects is Project Antifreeze, a day centre providing practical, emotional and spiritual support for the homeless.
On a 'typical' day, we begin by praying as a team before opening the doors to the centre, where we will see up to 60 rough sleepers and insecurely housed people. We are able to offer food, such as sandwiches, biscuits and fruit, all of which is provided by Fair Share.
We also offer hot drinks, clothes and toiletries, which are all donated items, sleeping bags, as well as support with a variety of issues: whether it be researching housing options, offering benefits advice or just offering to listen to someone.
Having interned for more than six months now and as December gets underway, it’s almost impossible to ignore the sadness of the situations that many find themselves in, especially at a time of year that is traditionally family-orientated and happy. But there are a number of things that will be taking place that will ensure that the homeless community are not forgotten or excluded.
Over the next couple of weeks we will be decorating the day centre with a Christmas tree and wrapping gifts for the clients to open. It’s simple things like this that we hope will be a special treat for the clients.
In addition to the activity at the day centre, staff and generous volunteers will also be going out onto the streets of Brighton and Hove three nights a week to give out essential clothing, Bibles (if desired), a hot drink, some sandwiches and biscuits.
This is a critical part of our work as it gives us the opportunity to see those who may not access services, but it also shows the love of Jesus in action.
Sometimes this can be a bit of a daunting task as some areas of the city, such as the seafront and car parks, where people are known to be sleeping, aren’t very well lit, or aren’t lit at all. There is also the occasional challenge with the weather, especially as Christmas approaches, with coastal wind and rain being quite difficult to ignore.
However, we put our faith in God to protect us, and we will always go out in teams of at least two people.
In addition to the practical support that this provides, we also aim to provide spiritual support through offering to pray with the clients, which the majority will happily accept. Usually these prayers are simple prayers asking for protection and safety while they face the vulnerability of being out on the street.
So, if you are wondering what or who you can be praying for this festive period, please pray that the generous donations will continue to be received. Please also keep in your mind and prayers those who will be having a cold and lonely Christmas out on the street, and those who are going to be helping them.
By Lizzie Walker