Reading the Crisis at Christmas website as I made the Wordsmithy’s Christmas donation, one statistic jumped out at me. The average age a homeless person dies is 47.
Homelessness is a complex topic and there’s lots of debate about how to define and number the homeless population in the UK, but 47… that’s a shocking fact, however many or few it applies to.
There’s something about Christmas that makes the idea of being homeless particularly poignant. Perhaps it’s the sentimental connection with the Christmas story: a baby born in a stable and no room at the inn. Perhaps it’s the way that going home for Christmas or being in our own homes for Christmas, with food and warmth and family around us, is something most of us take for granted. Perhaps it’s the cold weather and the realisation of how dreadful it must be to sleep on a freezing pavement in the winter frosts.
Whatever it is that makes us pause for thought and take action with a donation, it’s good news for Crisis at Christmas and the more than 4,000 guests they’ll welcome on and around 25th December.
More locally, a friend and member of my local self-employed community has been making a difference to the homeless of Reading. Reflexologist and therapist Kassi Milne-Smith has for the second year running organised a shoebox appeal, providing wrapped boxes of practical and festive gifts for homeless men and women who’ll eat Christmas lunch in two homelessness centres in Reading.
Through Kassi’s personal network and sharing a small number of Facebook posts, this year she’s almost doubled the number of shoeboxes that her friends and clients, and their friends
and clients, have contributed this year. The collective impact of these many small acts of kindness is very great. Without great fanfare or self-congratulation, lots of people have come together to help. It just goes to show that when the cause and the reaction it provokes is strong enough, and the call to action simple enough, one person can achieve a great deal with the resources they have at hand.
Although she’s been so modest about the whole thing, I’d like to give Kassi a pat on the back for coming up with the idea, putting the word out, co-ordinating and checking this year’s 124 boxes – no mean feat alongside her full time job. I know she’s proud of what we’ve collectively done to create such a mountain of shoeboxes, but none of it would have happened without her.