"Homelessness is a not just a festive phenomenon... it’s a symptom, support is needed 24/7, 365 days of the year to fix it" say The Cyrenians
"A homeless person is not just for Christmas" is the campaign theme adopted this Christmastime by The Cyrenians, the leading North East regional charity which supports vulnerable and homeless people.
"Homelessness is a not simply festive phenomenon, homelessness is suffered all year round" explains Steve Bell. "Homelessness is a symptom of troubled lives; you don’t solve it by just giving someone a bed for the night and a hot meal.
"This year we’re taking the opportunity to remind people that to solve homelessness you have to provide support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year. That’s what we do here at The Cyrenians
"Of course, Christmastime is a good opportunity to remind people – to prick our consciences - that there are many who are less fortunate than ourselves."
With headquarters in Newcastle, The Cyrenians operates in over 40 locations throughout the North East. This year the Charity is facing the real possibility of having to cut back its front line services due to the public sector cuts announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review.
Stephen Bell continued:
"We’re very anxious about the potential impact the cuts will have. We’re hoping that, as well as raising awareness of the plight of homeless people, the Christmas campaign will raise around £5,000 in donations. This would go a long way to paying for all of the meals in our projects over the Christmas period."
The Cyrenians support services range across a wide variety of need. Direct access emergency accommodation guarantees accommodation for people who literally walk in from the street.
People who are ‘at risk’ of losing their current home receive counselling and advisory support from The Cyrenians’ specialist teams, so preventing homelessness.
Stephen Bell explained further:
"Homelessness is an outward sign of inward turmoil. Fundamentally it’s important to provide a sense of security and support; this is the first step to gaining someone’s trust. Many people who seek us out have suffered unbelievably destructive influences in their lives; trust is the starting point for turning that around. You can’t put a time limit on that, it happens when it happens. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of homelessness all year round; it’s cynical just to put in the effort at Christmastime."
The Cyrenians explain their work as ‘changing lives, building futures’. The Charity firmly believes that those they help must move towards becoming self-supporting, this means taking part in training for work, achieving qualifications and developing ‘life skills’ such as money management, cooking and home-making.
This can often involve helping to tackle the root cause of a person’s chaotic life, be that substance abuse or manipulation and abuse by others.
Substance abuse can include drugs – both illegal and prescribed – and alcohol, and often both.
Many of those who come to The Cyrenians for help have been emotionally or physically abused, some sexually.