29 December 2020, The Tablet

Churches 'busier than ever' providing Christmas meals

Churches 'busier than ever' providing Christmas meals

A homeless man sits on Oxford Street in London.
David Cliff/PA

Christmas meals were provided all through Christmas by central London Catholic Churches.

Meals and homeless services have been “busier than ever” according to Fr Dominic Robinson, parish priest of Farm Street and chair of Westminster diocese Justice and Peace Commission.

Farm Street and St Patrick’s in Soho provided food from their premises, alongside St James in Piccadilly. The Sant’ Egidio Community fed hundreds in Central London on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. “There seem to be more and more new homeless” reported Fr Dominic “and after 1 January, with ‘no recourse to public funds’ the number of people facing destitution and starvation will get worse.” 

Caritas Westminster reported St Monica’s, Palmer Green, and St Joseph’s, Wealdstone being among the parishes providing hampers for struggling families, while many parishes supported foodbanks such as Borehamwood.

Fifty vulnerable families were helped by Newman Catholic College in Brent. Also, 26 schools were given vouchers worth £23,720, specifically to distribute for food provision for vulnerable families over the Christmas holidays.

Caritas Salford on Christmas Day welcomed 56 guests for breakfast and 77 guests for lunch at their Cornerstone Day Centre for homeless people in central Manchester.  Director Mark Wiggin said that, “even on one of the coldest days of the year with no buses running people were coming into the centres to pick up a take-away Christmas lunch.”

Staff from St Antony’s Catholic School in Trafford had prepared the special Christmas dinners and headteacher Fiona Wright delivered the meals to Cornerstone on Christmas Day. She said, “at this time of the year it is really important that we work together as a community to support those in need, and the school is delighted to be able to contribute”. 

As well as their lunch, guests received a Christmas Hamper full of treats such as tins of chocolates, ham, tuna and chicken, chesses and biscuits and jams. Also, a gift bag of hats, scarfs, gloves, and toiletries.

BBC Radio Manchester and presenter Eamonn O’Neal was at the Cornerstone Centre on Christmas Day to host a live two-hour broadcast during the breakfast session. Bishop John Arnold of Salford, who spent the morning at the Centre, shared his thoughts with Radio Manchester listeners on the pandemic, Christmas and homelessness.

He said: “The pandemic has asked some important questions about the way we care for each other; we do not want to return to an ‘old normal’ where too many people are left behind, too many marginalised.”

Caritas Bury partnered with other statutory and voluntary organisations in Bury to provide services over the Christmas holiday. On Christmas Day 280 people received a Christmas food parcel. Young people were prominent as the Young Christian Workers Impact group and parents worked together to pack the food parcels for local delivery. On Christmas Day volunteers delivered meals to Caritas Red Door homelessness project referrals, Eagles Wings and Mana House hostel emergency cold weather accommodation, local care homes, hospital referrals, Bury mental health services, Six Town Housing Association, Probation service and other service providers.

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