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'Heartwarming' generosity helps feed homeless people

Homelessness charities hold Christmas parties for clients and volunteers as council adds its own support

Party atmosphere at the Vine Day Centre on Christmas Eve

A party for Aldershot’s homeless people was held by a charity on Christmas Eve thanks to a grant that also paid for warm winter clothes for the vulnerable.

The Vine Day Centre, which supports homeless and vulnerable adults in north east Hampshire, laid on a lunchtime buffet for its clients at its centre in Station Road, Aldershot.

The celebration on Tuesday featured games, carol singing, presents donated to the centre, including many by Church Crookham Junior School’s PTA, and even a visit from Father Christmas.

Thanks to a donation from Waitrose Frimley, North Town catering company AA Caterers was brought in to supply the food to allow the charity's volunteers to enjoy a break too.

Yvette Dean, senior worker at the Vine, said: “We’re very, very grateful to those who have donated throughout the year too, such as one 10-year-old girl who donated £10 of her own money.

“This celebration is for our most vulnerable clients who would otherwise probably be sitting on a street corner or at home all alone feeling isolated. It’s for people to get together and have a Christmas that they probably wouldn’t be able to have.”

Vine chief executive Mags Mercer said: “The generosity of everyone is heartwarming and we thank them all.”

Step by Step, which also helps those facing the crisis of nowhere to stay, has also had help to bring some Christmas cheer to its clients in the form of sackfuls of presents, such as toiletries, donated by the public.

Assisting with the collection of these has been regular volunteer James Mowat, 27, who, 11 years ago, was handed a lifeline by the charity. He lived in the accommodation for three years after he and his mother were evicted from their Farnborough home just before Christmas in 2002.

He is now an established businessman living in Fleet and working for Farnham-based construction engineering recruitment company Energi People.

Together with sister Sarah, 30, he delivered presents to the Crimea Road centre last week ready for the big day.

“People don’t seem to realise how much of an issue there is,” he said. “We have collected presents for the last three years and had a boot full. It’s nice to give something back and I know what it’s like to be there for Christmas.”

Rushmoor Borough Council teamed up with homelessness charities and churches to manage a night shelter and is appealing for donations and volunteer support. The new 10-bed night shelter, being managed by the council and the Vine, will open on January 6 and be available for as long as the night time temperature is zero or below.

Councillor David Welch, cabinet member for health and housing, said: “Housing and homelessness charity Shelter is predicting a rise in demand for help for people who are struggling to keep their homes. We are working with the Vine Day Centre and local churches to provide a temporary night shelter that will give rough sleepers some relief from the coldest winter nights.”

Anyone interested in volunteering to help with the project should email



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