STEVEN DOWNES, the founder of Inside Croydon, calls on this site’s loyal reader to make a difference this Christmas
We were walking back from the Fairfield Halls. It was just after nine, one of the first really freezing cold nights of the winter. With the noise of Croydon’s urban motorway behind us, we turned the corner around Queen’s Gardens and saw something that was truly shocking.
There, in the pool of half-light provided by Fisher’s Folly, the council offices still brightly lit, there was a long queue of people, all lining up behind a couple of cars parked by the public open space. A handful of volunteers scurried between the vehicles, getting a sandwich here, a cup of warming soup there, to hand to the people in the queue.
I tried to count them. The queue was more than orderly; it was subdued, mute. The people barely moved, just shuffling forward, slowly getting ever closer to their turn.
They seemed suppressed, weighed down. We were seeing the effect of “austerity”, of real poverty and homelessness. Lined up in twos and threes, there was more than a hundred people there that night. Quiet. Waiting.
This is the image of Croydon in 2013 that I can not forget, and it is for this reason that we have decided to make Croydon Nightwatch, the band of charity volunteer workers who nightly provide alms and aid to the borough’s homeless and poor, our nominated charity.
There are plenty of demands on all of us these days. But those of us who “have” often don’t properly realise what it can be like to be among the “have-nots”.
Inside Croydon is not asking its loyal reader to donate so that we might embark on a vanity publishing project. We are not suggesting that you donate to a charity that pays for profitable local businesses to feel good about themselves and their “social responsibilities”. And we are not suggesting that you spend £1 on sending a text or making a phone call to back a group of unmusical caterwaulers on a TV talent show just because they happen to live in the borough.
What we are asking you to do is much more important than any of that.
There are three ways for you to help:
- Donate cash – which could help to provide meals for several homeless people for one night this Christmas. Donations can be made online here
- Donate goods or clothes. Nightwatch’s nightly clients have increased from around 60 a couple of years ago, to more than 100 now. Not all of the clients at the soup kitchen are homeless – according to the charity, an increasing number are the working poor, unable to afford enough for food. Many of them have children who through no fault of theirs could face a joyless Christmas. You can help them. More details of this can be found here
- Or you can volunteer. Croydon Nightwatch’s small band of helpers work 365 nights of the year. Might you be able to give up a couple of hours of your time to see what you can do this Christmas time? Click here for more information about volunteering
More about Croydon Nightwatch
Croydon Nightwatch has been under attack recently by Croydon Council, the borough police commander, and the MP for Croydon Central, who all want to move the charity away from its regular site for helping the borough’s needy. It seems all too inconvenient, having queues of poor and hungry just outside the council’s sparkling new offices. It might even risk deterring rich investors from buying the yuppie apartments which the council wants to build on Queen’s Gardens.
Is that really what Croydon is like in 2013?
Nightwatch says that, “Our core activity is providing prime and direct support for homeless and poor people in Croydon through work undertaken solely by volunteers. We help people at every level of homelessness, from the street homeless to those in hostels and bed and breakfast accommodation and vulnerable former homeless people who need continuing support if they are not to become homeless again.
“Over almost 30 years of work Nightwatch has assisted thousands of homeless and vulnerable people to turn around their lives, from being homeless and unemployed, to re-settling and providing them with a stable, enriched life. For others, we have supplied a constant, caring presence in lives which are too often fragmented and uncertain.”
As the nights get colder, Croydon Nightwatch’s work is ever more important. At Christmas time, just showing that someone cares can help to transform a life suffering hardships, perhaps even safe a life.
Can you help Croydon Nightwatch by showing that you care this Christmas?
- Click here for the Croydon Nightwatch charity annual report
- Click here to visit the Croydon Nightwatch website
Inside Croydon’s recent coverage of Croydon Nightwatch
- Police chief wants to have soup kitchen moved on
- Nightwatch charity chairman: “Our activities are legal”
- Soup kitchen PR disaster forces council U-turn – for now
- Council to use “all available bye laws” to move soup kitchen
Coming to Croydon
- Strange Air book talk, Upper Norwood Joint Library: Dec 14
- Surrey Street Christmas market, Dec 15 and 22
- Cinema Ruskin: Dec 21
- Steve Knightly at Stanley Halls: Feb 5
- Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough – 262,183 page views (Jan-Jun 2013)
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