Welcome Centre lifts spirits of Ilford's homeless with special Christmas lunch
PUBLISHED: 12:00 23 December 2019 | UPDATED: 13:28 23 December 2019
A charity which serves as a lifeline to Ilford's homeless held a special Christmas party for those who need it most.
The Welcome Centre, in St Marys Road, had presents and a full Christmas lunch for its members who use their facilities for a warm shower, laundry or a bite to eat.
The meal and some of the presents were thanks to a £650 local impact grant from the Asda store in Chadwell Heath.
The Welcome Centre invited along the Recorder for the lunch and a reporter heard stories of how important the charity is for those who have fallen on hard times.
Ravi, who has been homeless for the past five years, said: "We don't feel homeless because of this place and it's a real lifeline because they let us take a shower, wash our clothes and have lunch here."
Roy, from California, got connected to the charity by StreetLink after he was attacked while staying in a B&B and ended up homeless in 2015.
He is off the streets now and working as a bartender but sees a counsellor at the centre once a week and also volunteers there.
Roy said: "I help out where I can because I really respect what they've done for me.
"They're like a family to me."
About 45 people come in to the centre everyday for help with practical needs like food, clothes and laundry but also to see the nurse or use the computers for job hunting or help registering for benefits.
Director Phil Herbert said beyond helping the homeless with their day to day needs they also help with counselling and getting at the root of their problems.
Phil said: "We try to unpack what led them to being homeless in the first place."
He said the help from the community is tremendous with partnerships and donations from Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury and Waitrose along with area residents who stop by to see how they can help.
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Phil added: "With the support from the community we feel like we're not on our own."
As much as Phil likes seeing former clients like Roy volunteering there he is happy to see people move on completely.
He said: "When that happens, it shows they're standing on their own two feet."
Phil said there is a spike in generosity towards the homeless around Christmas but he hopes to see that continue after the holidays.
He revealed: "We're always happy for the help this time of year and I don't want to knock it but I wish that carried on through the year.
"The problem is not going to magically go away on the 1st of January."
Phil said that if you want to help the homeless it's best to donate money or services to trusted organisations helping the homeless like food banks, the Salvation Army or the Welcome Centre instead of giving food directly to people on the street.
He said: "Even though people have good intentions, giving food to people on the street is a short-term fix.
"In a way you're helping them stay there and not giving them the resources to get off the street."
He suggested if you see a homeless person on the street and want to help you should direct them to services within the community that they can go to.
Phil also said that one gesture that can go a long way is just stopping and chatting with a homeless person.
He said: "It has to be pretty depressing when everyone walks past and ignores you."
Robyn Parsons, community champion for ASDA was helping to serve the lunches alongside two of her colleagues and she said the response from the guests were brilliant.
She said: "It's great just to be able to sit at a decorated table for a nice lunch around the holidays. That's what we all want."
For more information visit www.healthylivingprojects.org.uk or the Welcome Centre's Facebook page.