YOUR kindness has given me a reason to celebrate Christmas.
That’s the poignant message of thanks homeless Simon Bailey has sent to readers of The News after they rallied to give him and dozens of others the perfect festive gift.
It comes after scores of people backed the Show Them You Care This Christmas campaign for the area’s most vulnerable residents.
Readers dug deep, donating hundreds of items of clothing, from new socks, jumpers and shirts, to trousers and boots, as well as toiletries and food.
And The News has now delivered all the items to homeless charities across the city in time for Christmas, as well as hitting the streets in Commercial Road, personally handing gifts to those living rough.
Simon was one of those living on the streets to benefit from the city’s generosity.
I’m going to open this present on Christmas Day. It’s given me a reason to celebrate ChristmasSimon Bailey
He received a new sleeping bag, as well as warm socks, a jumper and trousers.
The 43-year-old, who has lived rough in Portsmouth for several years, often sheltering at the top of Guildhall’s steps, was stunned by readers’ kindness.
He said this period of year can often be a bleak and lonely time for the homeless as they battle to survive.
But he said the generosity of The News’ readers will brighten his Christmas.
He said: ‘I’m going to open this present on Christmas Day. It’s given me a reason to celebrate Christmas.
‘I really appreciate people’s kindness. It means so much.’
Andrew Jasso, 36, has been living rough in the city for the past year and also benefitted from the campaign, receiving clothes and a sleeping bag.
After losing his job as a marine engineer, he trekked from his home in Aberdeen, Scotland, to Portsmouth in hopes of a fresh start.
But he has been battling to survive on meagre earnings and said the gifts from The News’ readers will make this Christmas special for him.
‘It’s horrible living on the streets,’ he said. ‘It’s a struggle to survive. I am relying on the generosity of strangers.
‘To get this present means so much to me, it makes me very happy. I can’t thank people enough.’
Other charities and good causes to receive gifts for the homeless included Hope House, The Roberts Centre and The Society of St James, which supports thousands of people across Hampshire.
Paula Martin is the service manager at Hope House, in Milton Road, Milton.
She said: ‘People have been so generous this year. It’s been overwhelming.’
This year’s campaign was launched after The News revealed there were hundreds of families across the area who would wake up on Christmas morning homeless.
The situation was described as a tragedy by charity Shelter and sparked an outpouring of support.
Schools, military bases, churches and shops have all been doing their bit to help, organising their own collections and events.
Yesterday members of the Facebook group Portsmouth Help For The Homeless Forum staged a Christmas Eve lunch for 50 needy people.
Sarah Knight, 48, of Buckland runs the site and said: ‘I’ve been absolutely astounded and humbled by the support this year.
‘You’re only ever one pay day away from being homeless so it really can happen to any of us.’
Councillor Donna Jones, Portsmouth City Council leader, was astounded by residents’ compassion.
The council boss also praised The News’ campaign, as well as all the separate efforts by churches and community groups, for rallying the city.
She said: ‘Portsmouth has shown it can come together as a community and show just how big a heart this city has. This stems back to the war where people had to rely on each other as bombs were dropping. There was a real sense of love thy neighbour, where people had lost their homes or loved ones, the city rallied to support them.
‘That’s an attitude that still rings true today.’
Tomorrow, Portsmouth Cathedral is hosting a lunch for homeless and lonely residents, while Portsea man Billy Willett will be cooking a free breakfast from his burger van in Commercial Road.
St Simon’s Church, in Waverley Road, Southsea, is staging a Christmas supper and party at 5.30pm.