The chairman of Churches Homeless Action, and vicar of St Mary’s Church, Fratton,
One of the problems with our current culture is that we can become over-concerned with meeting targets and goals.
We rush from one meeting to another, or one task to the next, so the time to dream dreams can be squeezed out, perhaps leaving us poorer as a community.
For me the chance to pause and chat over a coffee with a colleague is a valuable use of time – not just because I enjoy coffee and cake!
I can recall many examples when such ‘idle’ conversations have led to significant developments.
One of the most valuable was probably a coffee with Carole Damper, from the Roberts Centre in Landport.
We began to identify a common theme for those who are homeless or live on the margins of society.
We realised many of them experienced a de-personalisation – they became a ‘problem’ or an ‘issue’ or a faceless ‘them’.
Another common factor was a real lack of choice, often being recipients of generosity, but not having a choice in what they receive.
From this simple conversation the Churches Homeless Action Christmas voucher scheme was born.
Once again – for the 16th year – we are inviting people to share in this by doing two simple things.
One is to write a Christmas card with a personal greeting, to be given to a homeless person, vulnerable family or woman living in a refuge.
The other is to donate a £5 gift card or voucher so they can buy a Christmas gift.
We gather these together, then hand over those cards and vouchers to nine different partner groups at a special service on December 15.
These include SDAS (Southern Domestic Abuse Service) based in Havant; Two Saints who work in Portsmouth and Fareham; Friends without Borders and the Roberts Centre.
They pass them on to clients who are homeless, in temporary accommodation, in hostels or facing similar challenges.
The response we have had is overwhelming – supporters raised more than £14,000 last year and have raised £150,000 in total over the past 15 years. Those who receive them speak about the difference it makes to be recognised as a person and the freedom to choose a gift (or, more often, buy a gift for others).
If you would like to support us this year, please send your cards and donations to The Deanery Office, St Faith’s Church, Crasswell Street, Landport.
Or go to churcheshomelessaction.org for more details.