For homeless people of all ages, from children to the elderly, winter is often the hardest time of year. As the temperature drops, winter frost paves the streets each night and darkness falls, the most vulnerable in society might find it even harder to get by.
We published an article in The Boar last month about how Warwick students can help the homeless, but a growing priority is caring for homeless children. Shelter has estimated that 135,000 children will be homeless this Christmas, the highest number of child homelessness in 12 years. On average, a child loses their home every eight minutes. If we look closer to home – in Coventry, Shelter found that there are 742 homeless children, and there are 308 more across Warwickshire.
Many homeless charities want to make clear that child homelessness does not always involve sleeping on the streets. It might involve children and young people being moved from sofa to sofa, living in precarious situations and put in temporary accommodation by local authorities. We all want to help the children in these situations, but it can be difficult to know what to do. There are some ways that we can all try to make a difference.
Donate Christmas presents
We all receive presents that we don’t like at Christmas and spend ridiculous amounts of money on those we love. Homeless children and those living in poverty may not be receiving presents this Christmas. Donating a Christmas present is something that we can all do to help. It may seem a small gesture to us, but it could make a child’s Christmas.
The Salvation Army is running a Christmas present appeal, providing details of which types of presents they are looking for per age group. There are branches of Salvation Army in Coventry and Leamington who would greatly appreciate items such as toys, vouchers, teddy bears and books. Similarly, Birmingham Christmas Mission is running a ‘Toys for Christmas’ campaign. Any unwanted toys or gifts that you have lying around could make a child’s Christmas. Toys and gifts can be inexpensive but the impact they can have is sometimes unquantifiable.
Help out at food banks and donate food
This is not necessarily specific to child homelessness, but food banks are crucial for those living in temporary and uncertain living situations can survive. For children, having healthy and regular meals is vital to succeeding in education and ensuring effective growth and development. Warwick District food banks can be found in several locations throughout Leamington and Kenilworth.
Trussel Trust is a national charity that runs many food banks and there are several also under their administration in Coventry. Why not donate a few tins to help make up a Christmas dinner for a family? For a child living in poverty, a Christmas meal could provide a moment of respite.
Foodbanks are always looking for volunteers with Christmas Day a busy time for soup kitchens but volunteering in one of these can be extremely rewarding. Every year, Birmingham council turn Grand Central station into a huge Christmas dinner for homeless people.
Clothing is also something that can be easily donated. Charities run donation banks and homeless charity shops are always accepting donations for clothes. Children grow quickly and this can make holding onto the same clothes difficult for children living in poverty for extended periods.
Donate and sponsor rooms
A simple way to help children living in poverty is to donate to charities. Instead of sending out Christmas cards this year, donate the money to charity and ask others to do the same. St Basil’s are a locally-based homeless charity specific to young people and they are running a sleep out in March in Solihull, which is near to Warwick if you want to get even more involved. Crisis and Shelter are the UK’s biggest homeless charities.
If you want to make a more long-term sustainable difference, charities like Centrepoint allow you to sponsor a room that can house a homeless young person.
Think about the causes of child homelessness
Council and local authority elections can be an important place to express your opinion over local homelessness support.
Polly Neate, CEO of Shelter, claims that the growing levels of youth homelessness are a “sharp reminder that political promises about tackling homelessness must be turned into real action.”
This Christmas, there are things we can all do to help children living in poverty, whether that be donating an old toy or fundraising for homelessness charities. There are many great homelessness charities specific to young people who are grateful for anything we can to do help.