Christmas is going to be much different than any of us are used to this year as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic continues.
Welsh Government restrictions, imposed in a bid to clamp down on the spread of the virus, means that you can form a ‘bubble’ with one other household for Christmas Day only, something that is far from the usual celebrations we are used to over the festive season.
Whilst it may be drastically different to the norm this year, we’re still the lucky ones.
Spare a thought for all those homeless people in Swansea who will be without anything on the most festive day of the year.
Whilst we all have our own reduced celebrations planned, they will be the ones who have far less than all of us.
But thanks to the amazing generosity of some, they will not go without.
The following is a guide to some of the help that will be available to them over the festive season.
Foodbanks near where you live…
Swansea Together is an emergency network of volunteer groups, agencies, healthcare professionals and Swansea Council departments that provide regular support for the vulnerably-housed in the city, and particularly the homeless.
The Swansea Together food delivery and takeaway service plans to cater for all those in temporary accommodation or sleeping rough through Christmas week.
Matthew’s House charity is behind the service, which will ensure those unable to collect meals on December 25 will receive a delivery.
Matt’s Cafe, located at High Street, will serve up takeaway food on Christmas Day from 11.30am until 1.30pm.
Clothing is being distributed to the homeless, co-ordinated by the charity Zac’s Place, which still seeks donations of new socks and underwear, following generous donations of other items of clothing.
Arrangements are also being made for other important supplies to be delivered to homeless people in bed and breakfast accommodation.
This could include gift vouchers for high street food retailers, or donated items.
Christmas cards will be sent from organisations that have supported the homeless.
What’s been said about the scheme…
Thom Lynch, of Matthew’s House, said: “We have been blown away by the partnership support this year whilst coordinating Swansea Together.
“We hope for it to continue and strengthen as we do our best to remember the vulnerably-housed in our city.
“We will continue this support all through Christmas, with support from truly wonderful partners.
“We thank everyone who has supported Matthew’s House and Swansea Together this year, your kindness for our community is inspiring!”
Sean Stillman, of Zac’s Place, said: “Our shared efforts continue to be effective and thrive in the city due to the generosity of the community we are part of – I thank supporters so much for this.
“One of the ways we can be most effective in offering the best support we can is to receive donated items that are needed right now.
“This Christmas, we need new underwear, new socks and vouchers that can be used in shops that sell toiletries, clothes, food or takeaways.
“People who’d like to donate this Christmas are asked bring in these items only. Our team of volunteers will be pleased to receive them. I thank people across our communities so much for their support – it is appreciated by those who benefit.”
Swansea Council’s cabinet member for homes, energy and service transformation and joint deputy leader, Andrea Lewis, said: “People in our communities who are homeless through no fault of their own – or who are living in temporary accommodation – will be very much in our thoughts this Christmas.
“We want to ensure that they will be fed, can have a roof over their head and will be helped in other ways.”
And Swansea Council cabinet member for supporting communities, Alyson Pugh, said: “We’ve worked hard all year to get people off the street and to give them a roof over their heads. This work will not stop now.
“We’re thankful to partners who are working with us to ensure that there is help for the homeless this Christmas.”
Concern about a rise in figures in homelessness and rough sleeping when the pandemic hit was met with a pledge by Swansea Council to do all it could to prevent people becoming homeless.
The authority says a survey of rough sleeping has shown that up to five people are rough sleeping each night at present, compared to 2019 when figures were around 10 to 20 people.
How to help Big Issue sellers
The tier four restrictions which were imposed by the Welsh Government on Sunday has had a profound impact on 100 Big Issue sellers in Wales who will be unable to sell on the street following the ‘stay at home’ message.
John Williams, 52, who sells the magazine in Killay, Swansea is one of those affected.
“I was really looking forward to Christmas week as it’s the busiest week of the year,” he said.
“I love seeing all of my regulars and wishing them a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year but now I can’t. Financially it’s a huge blow too, as normally the money made from sales over the next couple of weeks see me through the tough month of January.
“This year has been a real struggle, hopefully next year will be better though it can’t be much worse than this year has been!”
Support is still available for the likes of Mr Williams. Half of proceeds raised through sales of £4 copies of the Big Issue from its website will go directly to a fund providing emergency payments for vendors.
Those wishing to donate new socks, new underwear or food shop vouchers should contact Matthew’s House by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org, calling 07708115903 or dropping them off at the Zac’s Place van in George Street.