Published: 15:00, 24 November 2017
| Updated: 15:22, 24 November 2017
Christmas should be a time of family, warmth and companionship, but for Maidstone’s growing numbers of homeless and vulnerable people it can be a time of great suffering.
Plummeting temperatures and longer nights are a huge challenge for those living on the brink, yet charities like Homeless Care work steadfastly to offer hope, help and support.
The Kent Messenger is backing them with its You Can Help campaign, aiming to secure vital donations of food, clothing and other useful items. It launched this week and runs throughout December.
From humble beginnings as a soup run more than 30 years ago, today Homeless Care runs a hostel, plus a day centre, in Knightrider Street, offering everything from hot showers and meals to housing and employment advice.
In the last year it handed out food parcels to people without a roof over their head and packs for families containing food, toiletries and other essentials.
Not only is the appeal a plea for our generous readers to again to lend their support, it is also a chance to shine a spotlight on the hard-working volunteers and charities who often provide a fantastic and precious service to people in crisis, without recognition.
“Christmas last year was made happier for the families going through a difficult time as we were able to deliver not only basic groceries but festive treats." - Angela Clay, secretary, Homeless Care
Angela Clay, secretary at Homeless Care, said: “Last year’s collection filled our store cupboards, plus the extra space we had to find to accommodate the huge amount of donations we received from our caring community.
“As well as supplying our kitchen at Maidstone Day Centre, we were able to provide food for the people in our town who would otherwise have gone hungry.
“Christmas last year was made happier for the families going through a difficult time as we were able to deliver not only basic groceries but festive treats.
“Homelessness is an increasing problem in our town as it is across the UK. The rolling out of Universal Credit has meant more people having to wait for their benefits to be paid.
Zofia Grzymala, day centre manager, added: “As the end of yet another year approaches fast, we seem to be facing the same problems, but in a far greater volume.
“Many people from within our community will once again struggle this winter to provide even basic food for their families.
“Many will spend winter and Christmas on the streets of Maidstone without a place to call home and without and without the support of their loved ones.
“It is so important to remember these people, not only at Christmas but all year round, and to help them in any way we can.
“Even small donation can make a huge difference to someone in need and brighten up their Christmas.”
“These are likely to be people who are already struggling to put food on the table for their family. Food for Thought, our foodshare scheme, is receiving a higher than ever demand for food parcels.
“Because of the generosity of our local community, we can help these families until their circumstances improve.”
The campaign has run for the past 17 years and, thanks to the support of businesses, schools and churches who act as collection points, last year the Kent Messenger collected more than 16,000 items.
Our You Can Help appeal is run with Homeless Care, responsible for the Maidstone Day Centre in Knightrider Street, the Food For Thought project and Goodsell House hostel in Tonbridge Road.
Items particularly needed include tins of non-perishable goods, ready meals, Christmas food and toiletries.
Cheese, bacon, sausages, eggs and butter or spreads are also welcome.
Also needed are practical items like torches, nail clippers, good quality disposable razors, facial wipes, jogging bottoms, waterproofs, T-shirts in medium or large and gloves and woolly hats.
The Day Centre is open between 9am and noon.
Collection points are:
If you would like to help or offer a collection point or donate time or services, contact the Friends of Maidstone Day Centre by emailing email@example.com or, call Zofia Grzymala on 01622 674064.
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