CHRISTMAS can be a tough time of year for those who are homeless.
But community leaders in Portsmouth are hoping the launch of a goodwill scheme will make things easier for vulnerable people this festive season.
The homeless voucher scheme, run by Churches Homeless Action, asks residents in the city to send a £5 voucher and a Christmas card to their local churches and schools.
The gifts are then sent to homelessness charities before they give them to the people they work with.
The scheme has been running for 10 years and last year £14,000 was handed to the homeless to help improve their lives.
St Mary’s Church, in Fratton Road, Fratton, acts as one of the main collection points.
Reverend Bob White, who is leader of the church and chairman of Churches Homeless Action, said the scheme makes a huge difference.
‘With the difficult economic situation, the lowest number of new homes being built for many years and the changes in welfare benefits, more people than ever before are homeless or living in temporary accommodation and have no money,’ Mr White said.
‘This scheme helps to make people feel like they are being treated as a normal person.
‘The scheme isn’t limited to rough sleepers.
‘It covers people who have to live in bed and breakfast accommodation and asylum seekers needing help.’
The Roberts Centre, a charity which supports young homeless people and their families, gets involved with the scheme every year.
Carole Damper, chief executive of the charity, which is based in Crasswell Street, Landport, said: ‘This is about giving vulnerable people choice.
‘They get the choice as to what they will spend their money on.
‘Some people think they would just spend it on alcohol and drugs but that’s wrong. These people really appreciate the respect they’re given and use the gift to help improve their lives.
‘We offer an extra incentive and say to people we will give them an extra voucher if they use the money to help them overcome some of their problems.’
The scheme will culminate with a carol celebration service at the church on Friday, December 21, where all the vouchers will be handed over to the agencies.
The service starts at midday.