The weeks leading to Christmas are a time of general celebration and joy. But as the nights grow colder it is vital not to forget the most vulnerable people in society, and especially homeless people and rough sleepers.
It is welcome news that the Government has launched a £100 million Rough Sleeping Strategy, designed to provide rapid support to up to 6,000 vulnerable people. But there is so much more to be done.
Local charity Vennture have been doing fantastic work in Herefordshire for many years to help those who do not have a roof over their head, and have just launched a ‘Give Wisely Scheme’ in the run up to Christmas.
The Give Wisely Scheme allows people to support those in need via local cafes, shelters and businesses, rather than by on-street donations of cash, which often end up in criminal hands, or in indirectly encouraging different forms of exploitation.
Funded by the scheme, local community and church volunteers run a night shelter in Hereford, where hot food is available for all in need every day. Generous local cafes provide hot drinks and snacks. Local volunteers, charities, churches and businesses are doing their utmost to support the vulnerable - keeping people fed and providing an immediate alternative to sleeping in shop doorways.
The Government has committed to the aim of halving rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminating it altogether by 2027. This is a huge challenging task given the complexities of the issue, but the help of local volunteers should make a real difference. The kindness and energy of these volunteers, committed to helping others, is one of the things that make this county such a special place.