Homeless must not be forgotten at Christmas – campaigning priest

Homeless must not be forgotten at Christmas – campaigning priest Fr Peter McVerry

While Christmas is usually a time most of us look forward to, social justice campaigner Fr Peter McVerry said homeless people dread the festive season.

Speaking to the paper as the trust launched its 2017 annual report, Fr McVerry said that Christmas is the most “depressing day of the year” for homeless people as they feel isolated from the rest of society celebrating the Christian holiday.

“Christmas is a horrible time. A lot of homeless people tell me they would love to go to sleep on December 1 and wake up on January 1. It’s a time, not only of enormous pressure but financial pressure because homeless people want to have a set of new clothes to wear on Christmas day – it’s part of their self-esteem and dignity,” Fr McVerry said.

He added that homeless people also like to buy presents for their “brothers and sisters or children” at Christmas but that it’s also a time when you become acutely aware of your own aloneness.

“This is a time where the perception is – the reality is often different – but the perception is that everyone is at home enjoying themselves with their family pulling crackers and eating turkey, and you’re excluded from that. And maybe on Christmas day if you’re on the street, it’s the most depressing day of the year,” he said, pointing out that homeless people have nowhere to go on the day because the streets are empty and shops are closed.

Aloneness

“There’s nowhere open where you can even go in to sit down and have a cup of tea. There’s no transport, the streets are deserted, so you really feel your aloneness much more acutely at Christmas and on Christmas day than you do the rest of the year.”

He added that although the Peter McVerry Trust is striving to reduce homelessness, the homeless crisis is ultimately a problem that the Government has to tackle.

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