4 January 2022

YMCA East Surrey’s Housing team understands the importance of getting together at Christmas and sharing gifts and food with others.

Thanks to the generosity of the local community, 50 young people who have experienced homelessness were able to enjoy a delicious lunch together on Christmas Eve at YMCA Hillbrook House in Redhill.

“People might think that the real meaning of Christmas has become lost among all the consumerism, but there is something magical about the decorated streets, the cheer in the air and the pleasure of sending cards and presents,” says YMCA Housing Support Manager, Nicole Tootill.

“Christmas can also be a meaningful time for us to pause and reflect on ourselves and this is something we tried to encourage our residents to do this year. We have a lovely, kind and giving community, who were very generous in their donations and gifts during the month of December, which enabled staff to make sure our residents were able to celebrate and feel the love this Christmas.”

Local support came from award-winning Redhill agency Clockwise Marketing and their clients, who donated the funds and presents needed to make it a special day for all. Truly Giving, a not-for-profit organisation, provided additional gifts.

“We provided a drop-in lunch with a variety of different cuisines so that residents could come and go as they pleased,” says Nicole. “Many sat down, enjoyed the food together and took part in festive games of Bingo and throw the hoop on the reindeer antlers!”

One 18-year-old resident, who preferred not to be named, said:

“I normally hate Christmas, but this year I didn’t feel lonely. Staff are always around to chat if I’m not feeling okay. I’m also getting better at being in group situations. Eating Christmas dinner all together and opening gifts was a world away from last year and for that I’m thankful.”

Last year, YMCA East Surrey provided safe, affordable housing to 108 young homeless people and an average of 616 hours of support per month were delivered by staff to residents.

The YMCA Sleep Easy challenge, which aims to raise the profile of local youth homelessness, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. The fundraising event will take place overnight on Friday 11th March.