A seasonal Swindon homeless shelter, whose chairman is from Co. Limerick, is appealing for donations to keep its 28-year Christmas haven for the homeless running successfully.
Patsy Moloney, of Bruff, runs the Christmas Care shelter out of the Queens Drive Methodist Church Park to give people a meal, companionship and somewhere to stay over the holiday period.
“We’re open on the four most important days of the year,” he told the Irish World.
“Some of these people would otherwise be sleeping in doorways, allotment sheds, or just on their own at home.
“We try and make the shelter as homely as possible for companionship and we stock it with three piece suites, games, decks of cards and a television over Christmas.
“Anyone visiting can have a shower and a full change of clothes and we also have hairdressers donating their time and services over the four days. We are expecting over 80 people each day for food, and we can sleep over 30 each night.”
The shelter opens up at 11 am on Christmas Eve until 11 am on December 28, open for 24 hours and all run by volunteers. Most of the guests age between 17-50 years old.
Each morning patrons are given a full hot breakfast and dinner, with a buffet in the evening, and at no time are guests refused a hot drink or food.
Many of the people availing of Moloney’s service are young people suffering from drink and drug problems, and people leaving on the 28th can take away as much bedding and clothing that they want.
“It’s hard to see some of them leave on the last day. It’s so rewarding to see the same faces each year, but then it’s harder as we’ve lost five or six regulars over the past few years.
“We rely on voluntary donations, and are extremely grateful to all those who help out. We seem to get bigger each year. On our volunteer night last month 168 people showed up!”
It is a task that Moloney has to prepare for way in advance.
“I have to start making calls in September, but the church is very good to us. As some of the guests suffer from problems our insurance is very expensive for the four days and then we have to pay for the heating and utilities for the time we use the hall too.
“Other than that it runs on donations, but health and safety regulations are killing us.
“Before we could go to the shops on Christmas Eve as they were getting rid of un-purchased food but now insurance won’t let us in case anyone gets food poisoning!
“Then on top of that we can’t have ordinary people just working in the kitchens, they have to have food hygiene certificates to go along with it.
“But it’s well worth it for all that help out. We have no money spare for advertising and need to raise £1,000 before we even start for the overheads. But businesses’ contributions make an enormous help.
“The Blunsdon House Hotel nearby will cook, carve and deliver turkeys for us which is no mean feat when you consider we provided over 75 dinners last year.
“Then Kerry Foods Ltd, who have a distribution centre in Swindon, have pledged to provide goods for breakfast. We really do rely on this help.”
On top of business donations, the shelter relies on donations from the public for clothing and bedding and there are six days allocated for the cause between now and Christmas. Patsy also sends 106 emails to all of the churches in the Wilshire area for help as well.
“It’s very important now as we are serving nearly a 50 mile radius since similar shelters in Oxford, Bath and Bristol have all closed down.
“Then with people who live on their own and might not be able to make the trip to us because of increased taxi fares on the bank holiday we try to acquire a minibus to collect people maybe three or four times a day from the city centre.
“We get people who have maybe been living in and out of shelters across the UK for years, and they say that our service is one of the best. We even pack sandwiches for guests to take with them when we close on the 28th.
“We make sure that we thank all of the people and businesses that give us help, and any support would be hugely welcomed.
If you would like to help in any way, call Patsy Moloney on 01793 642368 or visit the website for more information at www.christmascare.co.uk.
The donation days will be held at Queens Drive Methodist Church on the following:
Saturday, December 6 10am – 3pm
Friday, December 12 7pm – 9.30pm
Saturday, December 13 10am – 3pm
Thursday, December 18 10am – 3pm
Saturday, December 20 10am – 3pm
Sunday, December 21 12pm – 2pm
Tuesday, December 23 OPEN ALL DAY