Two weeks ago I wrote about searching for the elusive festive spirit. This Christmas, I am delighted to say it has found me.
It was somewhere around Christmas ‘do’ number seven I first started to feel warm and fuzzy, but I can pinpoint the moment it well and truly kicked in to my visit to Bury St Edmunds Drop-In on Friday.
Did you know Bury had a weekly drop-in for homeless people? Nope, neither did I. So when I was told about it I had to see for myself.
Every Friday, from 11am-2.30pm, Garland Street Baptist Church Hall turns into a warm and welcoming haven where homeless people can have breakfast, a hot meal, tea and coffee on tap and access various external agencies, such as benefits advisors or housing associations. It was set up in September by churches in Bury - an estimated 12-15 churches and 50 volunteers are involved, according to the Rev Robert Green, of Garland Street Baptist Church.
When I arrived it was quiet, so I helped myself to a drink and looked at the laminated menus placed on each of the tables around the hall.
Mike Coleman, who helped to spearhead the initiative, said: “We are here for one thing only: to meet people in their crisis and not judge them.”
It’s a tactic which appears to be working: soon the hall was filled with the sound of voices and chatter.
Mark, who moved back to the town three weeks ago, told me the drop-in gives him a ‘boost’.
“Friday is always a big thing for me because I look forward to coming.
“I’ve feel like I’ve got a family here,” he said.
“If you are feeling low you can come and there’s no judgement. And there’s good coffee, too. This place gives me strength and a little bit of hope.
“It is a lifesaver.”
By the time I left, eight people were either chatting to volunteers or advisors. Not only that, I’d been well and truly warmed by the cosy atmosphere and the feeling lives were being changed thanks to the work of a dedicated band of volunteers. What more incentive to feel festive could anyone need?
-- To support Bury Drop-in, either through a small regular donation or volunteering a few hours a week, email firstname.lastname@example.org