The Irish chairman of a homeless shelter in Swindon has called on people in the local area to help out over the festive period
Patsy Moloney, of Bruff, Co. Limerick, heads up Christmas Care – a shelter which provides food, warmth and companionship over the holiday season. In its 29th year, it offers turkey dinners, a buffet spread and unlimited hot drinks to those who need it as well as a change of clothing and footwear.
Patsy explained how it is hard work but all worth it when you consider what some people have to go through at this time.
“We’re open for the four most important days of the year,” he said. “People would otherwise be sleeping rough on park benches or in doorways.
“They know that if they come here, they can be warm and well-fed and they get nothing but the utmost respect from the volunteers.”
The shelter serves about 65 to 75 people each day, with 35 taking up the opportunity to spend the night. Situated at Buckhurst Community Centre (formerly known as The Dome), Burghley Close, in Walcot, Swindon, the centre is open from 11am on Christmas Eve to 11am on 28 December.
It is run entirely by volunteers – who adhere to a 24-hour rota – while most of the guests are aged between 17 and 50.
“We’re open first thing at 11am and we want people to come in, have a sit down and a cuppa and just experience that companionship,” Patsy said.
“It’s only by the Grace of God that we’re not all homeless and it’s only right that we offer something to people who are less fortunate.”
Christmas Care is holding several donation days in the run-up to the opening, including two next to Sue Ryder at the Brunel Centre, Swindon on 10 and 17 December. It will also have volunteers at Swindon Rugby Club on 10-11 December between 10am- 3pm and a collection at the Buckhurst Community Centre on 15 December between 12pm-3pm.
Patsy and the team have asked that if anyone has any spare, warm male or female clothing that it is dropped off from Christmas Eve onwards.
“We never get called out on wasting food because we freeze all the soup and the breakfasts always go to other causes,” he said. “Right now we’re after warm clothing – fortunately we’re sorted for bedding this year but clothes for both men and women are still needed.”
While Patsy is proud to be open for the Christmas period, he believes that Swindon needs a permanent homeless shelter to help those in need all year round.
“I estimate that there are at least 50 homeless people in Swindon and, realistically, they need help for all 12 months of the year,” he explained. “Places are closing down and they’ve got nowhere to go. It means that the situation is even worse than people realise.”
He added that both guests and volunteers must now be over the age of 16, something which is a shame as there are many younger people who want to help out.
“Parents used to want to bring their kids along so they could see how lucky they are but that’s not possible anymore,” he said.
For those that are there, however, it will be incredibly rewarding. While those who are seeking warmth and comfort over Christmas will be extremely grateful.
• Anyone wishing to help out in any way can call Patsy Moloney on 07521 199 895 or email firstname.lastname@example.org