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Christmas at Crisis

27th December 2016

During visits to London I often get a fleeting glimpse of a homeless person. They are tucked away in a sleeping bag or cardboard box. For this past Christmas the Berkeley Foundation asked for 20 volunteers to help out at the Crisis charity's shelters at Edgware Road or Chalk Farm on the 27th and 28th December.

I decided to go to the Edgware Road centre which was near to full capacity, having 230 guests when it could cater for 250. We sat down in the Volunteers' Area where calls via radio would dispatch volunteers around the building.

My first task would be getting clean towels and then I spent several hours mopping the floor of the showers and the changing rooms. One guest trimmed and cleaned his beard. Another tied elastic restraints on the pegs, to exercise his arms by stretching.

They slept in a large hall where I spent several hours doing a headcount of who was leaving and arriving. They slept fully clothed on makeshift beds, getting the best sleep they hadn't in a while.

In the afternoon, the more experienced volunteers offered me the chance to go in "at the deep end" and chat with a guest who had been referred to Crisis by St Mungo's. He was paralysed down his left hand side and wheelchair bound. When he was at school he wanted to be good at whatever he turned to. He revealed he'd been a sergeant in the armed forces. His left arm had a tattoo. "It shows I'm a fallen angel."

Crisis gives people like him the chance to rise. It was good to get an opportunity to do good this Christmas.