Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Crisis at Christmas

I am volunteering at Crisis at Christmas, the homeless charity, again this year.

An early start this morning so I won't write much now (its well past midnight) as I've another early start tomorrow but a few thoughts from today:
  • Volunteers do a variety of tasks. My first job was an outside job making sure that everything was orderly in Leadenhall square next to the shelter. On one side of the square is the Lloyd's building, dating from the City's last great boom in the 1980's. On the other is the 'Erotic Gherkin' Swiss re building squarely from the current boom. Quite a contrast to the makeshift shelter housed on two floors of what was an M&S mini-market and London branch of an Italian merchant bank until recently. The square was full of people bustling to work as the City awoke from its Christmas slumber - speaking the myriad languages that are the hallmark of one of the world's leading financial centres. Inside the shelter this is reflected in the thick set of pages at reception telling volunteers how to greet homeless guests in a dozen different languages. London's contrasts - linguistic, financial and personal - never cease to amaze, worry and inspire me.
  • Working at Crisis at Christmas always restores in me real faith in the fundamental quiet decency of so many of my fellow citizens - whether guest or volunteer. If you want to help Crisis (or better yet volunteer!) go to
  • Speaking to guests, and hearing their stories of how they ended up on the streets I always am struck that, but for the grace of God, there go I. The gap between living in a stable, secure home (often with family) and the life on the streets is scarily narrow.

Now to bed, much to do tomorrow.

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