From handmade Santa sleighs to toy appeals, locals are pulling out all the stops to help those most in need, writes Miriam Balanescu
With the cost-of-living crisis still ongoing, many of Haringey’s residents will again be feeling the pinch this Christmas.
Last month, a report showed that 103 of Haringey’s homeless households were living in hotels as of September, while Haringey Council is seeing increases in evictions from the private rented sector, along with more approaches from refugee households and people fleeing domestic abuse.
Sarah Williams, cabinet member for housing services, who represents West Green for Labour, told HCP last month that 100 homeless families approach the council on a weekly basis.
In light of this, as we face another cold winter, charity initiatives are crucial to making a difference in local communities. Tonya Mavri, family support worker at homelessness charity CARIS, says: “Our clients are exposed to the cold weather conditions. They are unable to pay for rising energy costs. The temporary accommodation can be uninhabitable and poorly insulated. There is no money to buy warmer clothes such as winter coats.”
The charity’s Christmas toy appeal requests donations from the public, with the last date for deliveries to St Ann’s Church Hall on Monday, 11th December. “Each present is selected with the individual needs of the child in mind,” says Tonya. “For some of our families these are the only Christmas presents they may receive.”
Another local initiative in aid of young people is Sister System’s Christmas party for Haringey girls in care. The charity, which supports care-affected girls, fundraises towards this special event. “The inception of this heartwarming initiative originated from our unwavering commitment to acknowledging and celebrating the remarkable achievements of the girls and young women who have been integral to our programmes,” says Sharney Boakye-Yiadom, communications coordinator at Sister System.
“Recognising the importance of creating moments of joy during the festive season, we envisioned a gathering that not only honoured their accomplishments but also provided a joyous occasion for all involved.
“The initiative serves as a powerful catalyst, providing young girls with an empowering and positive space for celebration. Beyond the festivities, it becomes a transformative experience, offering them a sense of empowerment and fostering resilience. This secure environment ensures they come together, creating a strong sense of community and ensuring they do not feel isolated during what can be a challenging period.”
Meanwhile, the Wood Green Salvation Army is also holding a Christmas present appeal, along with a flurry of free or lowcost meals in the lead up to and on Christmas day. Paula Knight, who is organising the events, explains: “The Christmas message is joy and peace for all people but for those struggling with the cost-of-living crisis it can be a very stressful time of year. More families than ever are wondering where they will find the money to pay for their next meal let alone gifts for their children on Christmas Day.
“By donating a toy or gift to our Christmas Present Appeal you will be turning a day of disappointment into a day of joy for a child living in Haringey. We provide toys for all the families registered with Wood Green Salvation Army and we work in partnership with Haringey Council to provide gifts for the children under their care. We pass on the gifts to the families two weeks before Christmas Day so that they have peace of mind in the run up to Christmas.”
Bringing community members together for a Christmas meal is also an anchoring aspect of Jacksons Lane’s celebrations. “For 48 years, Jacksons Lane has opened its doors on Christmas day to older or disabled adults from across Haringey who would otherwise be alone,” says executive director and joint CEO Hannah Cox.
“The aim of our Christmas Day project is simple – to provide community, connection and celebration on what can be a difficult day for many. This year we will support 100 older adults at an in-person event at Jacksons Lane and a further 200 more with at-home deliveries of Christmas hampers, complete with a three course meal, Christmas drinks and treats, a gift and a doorstep chat.”
On the event’s importance, Hannah says: “Community has always been at the heart of Jacksons Lane’s work and our Christmas Day project has become a local tradition, with over 100 volunteers supporting us every year. The cost-of-living crisis has impacted so many in our older adult communities, particularly those who are already isolated. This project helps us build community and connection, as well as providing hot food and a warm space to spend time on Christmas Day.”
This year, a Big Give Christmas fundraiser will be enabling the event to go ahead, where all money donated will be doubled. Staff need £20,000 to support the event and members of the public have until Tuesday, 5th December to donate (donate.biggive.org/campaign/a056900002RXs1KAAT).
Hornsey Round Table, a local branch of an international social organisation for men, has an eclectic means of supporting the community. Every year, its members will traipse around Haringey in Santa’s sleigh, taking donations and spreading festive cheer.
Wayne Morley, their vice chairman, says: “We decided that we needed an annual fundraiser that really connected with our community. Some of our fellow tables over in Essex had great success in operating a sleigh in their prospective constituencies and so it was decided that a Santa sleigh was the perfect way to fundraise. One of members Thomas Harvey happens to be a director at Washroom Washroom Ltd. […] They kindly donated all the materials, designed and then hand built our beautiful sleigh.”
He adds: “Normally you will hear the sleigh coming before you see it! We handpick some of the catchiest Christmas classics to make sure there are no local children missing out on seeing Santa pass by their house. We often get waves and cheers from people heading out for a Christmas party or people commuting home on buses.
“The wonderful donations we receive every year enable us to help some of the most vulnerable people in our community. We chose our charity partner, The Hornsey Foodbank, based on who we felt needed the money most urgently. It’s clear that foodbank use is on the increase and that many people are also experiencing anxiety and stress due to the current economic climate so we couldn’t think of a more worthy cause.”