Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
James Robinson, left, and Peter Robinson, right, fill in Jeremy Corbyn on homelessness and poverty in Hastings.

James Robinson, left, and Peter Robinson, right, fill in Jeremy Corbyn on homelessness and poverty in Hastings.

Surviving the Streets’ invite to Christmas cheer at the YMCA

Once again Surviving the Streets UK will be opening the doors of the YMCA over the Christmas period to provide some seasonal cheer to the growing number of local residents marginalised by poverty. Co-founder James Robinson brings Nick Terdre up to date with the charity’s activities.

Christmas cheer will be on offer at the YMCA on Christmas Day, with dinner, snacks, pudding, table service for the homeless, plus entertainment and singing, says James Robinson, who founded Surviving the Streets UK with his brother Peter two years ago. Doors will be open from 11am to 5pm.

On Boxing Day opening hours are 10am to 1pm, during which a full English breakfast will be served.

For the first time the charity will provide a night shelter at the YMCA, running from 7.30pm on Christmas Day evening to 7.30am on Boxing Day morning for those with no home to go to.

It also runs a night shelter for the homeless at Christ Church in St Leonards every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This will be open every weekend until March.

Last year was the first time Surviving the Streets set up in the YMCA at Christmas, and James appreciated being inside somewhere warm, rather than out on the street where most of the charity’s activities take place.

“It was a great success,” he says, “It was nice to make everyone feel welcome, including some people who haven’t got any family and are living on the street.”

Poverty crisis

“Over 100 turned up. I’m estimating probably double this year with the poverty crisis in Hastings and the rest of the local area. I hope it won’t be the case, I hope most of the homeless will be in somewhere warm, but in the real world we all know that’s not going to happen, we all know there are people who haven’t got it and we just want them to know they’re welcome.”

James and Peter met with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn when he came to Hastings during the election campaign. “He’s a nice, down-to-earth guy,” says James. “I’m not going to lie, I don’t believe in all the politics crap that comes with it, I just want to make change in the community, but it’s nice for them to come down and give us support.

“It’s a shame the locals didn’t get what they deserve. We just want to see change – we’re aiming every year to see a change in the law and be able to shut one of our services down, we want to see people better their lives.

“On our books we’ve got about 300 volunteers. Regularly we have about 50 volunteers at work who all do their bit. We’ve got a great team, it’s more like a family than an organisation, we all look out for each other.”

All-year-round battle

Surviving the Streets works all the year round in its battle against poverty, with activities in Hastings, St Leonards, West St Leonards, Bexhill and Eastbourne.

“In Hastings we set up with a table service under the subway, we give them hot food and clothing, all the support we can. In Eastbourne we’ve got a hot food truck which we go out with.

“With the smaller towns like St Leonards, West St Leonards and Bexhill, it’s more like an outreach service, we drive around with the van, make sure they’ve got hot drinks and sandwiches.

“It’s quite sad that we have to do what we do. Unfortunately the world’s the way it is, and I can’t sleep at night unless I do something,” says James.

The number of people who need help and support is still increasing. “In Hastings I’d say there are anything from 60 to 100 who don’t even interact with the council. As a whole, it’s got to be 400, that’s not only rough sleepers, that includes sofa-surfers, people sleeping in cars, and so on. That’s a figure I was given last month, it may have gone up.”

He appreciates the efforts made by Hastings council. “The last month the council have been doing really well, they are trying their best, some of the other councils I know aren’t in the same league.”

poster 2019 600Self-funded

Surviving the Streets does not receive any public funding. “We’re self-funded, we have to work our hearts out, we run a few events like Bonkers Bingo, we rely on public donations and what we can raise ourselves, it’s not as easy as what people may think.

“Asda are fully supportive of us, and that’s pretty much the same with Tesco’s, Waitrose and a few of the other supermarkets, they really love what we do and support us as much as they can.”

The charity collects food nearing its sell-by date which would otherwise be thrown away, not only locally but from stores as far afield as Hampden Park and Hailsham. “We go round all the stores in the evening collecting their food waste, that takes our bill down a bit and helps the environment, as the food doesn’t go to waste.”

So far this Christmas the charity has also given out 200 children’s presents to hard-pressed families. It has arranged a deal with More Radio for donations of children’s presents.

“We give food to schools and local families, we work with agencies, there’s any number of services that we do and try to sustain. And our thanks to the great public in Hastings, they’re very supportive of what we do, so we’re very lucky.”

Donations can be made to Surviving the Streets UK through its website and Facebook page. Asda has a bin for donation of foodstuffs.


Surviving Christmas pulls out the stops at Salvation Army hall

Surviving Christmas will also be pulling out the stops over the Christmas period. This weekend it aims to deliver the last of some 700 hampers to families in Hastings and Rother depending on food support and referred by agencies.

Christmas dinner, entertainment, clothing, showers and company will also be available to the homeless and others in need who are within reach of the Salvation Army hall in St Andrews Square, where the doors will be open from 10am to 4pm on Christmas and Boxing days.

In the days running up to Christmas children can visit Santa’s Grotto at the centre.

Surviving Christmas also enjoys widespread support from the local community, including businesses, other charities, schools and colleges, local groups and individuals.

Donations can be made through its website.

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Posted 13:35 Saturday, Dec 21, 2019 In: Grassroots

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