How to help the homeless this Christmas: ELL’s guide to volunteering at soup kitchens and shelters

Volunteers at GrowTH Pic: GrowTH

It’s hard to estimate exactly how many people will be spending this Christmas sleeping on the streets. The latest figures produced by Broadway, a London homelessness charity, show that 1,920 rough sleepers were seen by homeless services in the capital between September and October 2012, a rise of over a quarter from the same period in 2011.

If you’re wondering what you can do to help those in need this Christmas, then take a look at Eastlondonlines’ roundup of how and where you can help.



With eight centres across London open between December 23 and 30, including one in Deptford, Crisis at Christmas offer hot meals, shelter, and a wide range of essential services that homeless people often miss out on. This year they expect nearly 3,000 guests to visit.

What they say: “We need more than 8,000 volunteers to make it happen, from those willing to ‘muck in’ and help out anywhere to people with particular skills like dentists, hairdressers, lorry drivers and performers.”

999 Club

Staffed entirely by locals, the 999 Club offers a place for people to go in need of hot food, warm clothes, somewhere to wash, or simply for a chat. Volunteers who can teach or hairdress are especially welcome to come and help.

What they say:Literacy, hairdressing, fundraising, photography and PR are just a few of the services offered by the 999 volunteers, as well as the serving of countless cups of tea and toast at our two day centres.”


Croydon Churches Floating Shelter

CCFS offers overnight accommodation, food, shower facilities, and advice throughout the winter period to those living on the streets. Over 30 churches are now involved, some covering the period from November 1 to December 31 and others from January 1 to the end of March.

What they say: “We are always grateful for new volunteers – you don’t have to be a member of any church – and if you feel you would like to help in any way, please contact us.


Nightwatch provide direct support for homeless people in Croydon through work undertaken solely by volunteers. A different group of volunteers go out every night to offer practical and emotional assistance to those without a home in the borough.

What they say: “Volunteers are involved in different tasks. Some volunteers do not work directly with the homeless, but contribute by making food, buying goods for us, administrative work or fundraising.”



GrowTH is a church-based ‘rolling shelter’ running from November 1 to June 1 across seven different venues in Tower Hamlets. They provide free emergency accommodation to street homeless and those at immediate risk of rough sleeping.

What they say: “Our volunteers’ generosity means that we can make a real difference this Christmas and throughout the winter. One of our guests told me that the night he spent in one of our shelters was the first safe, uninterrupted sleep he had had in ages. This makes it all worth it.”

Crisis Skylight Café: Christmas Dinner

This is not a shelter or a soup kitchen. The cafe helps those affected by homelessness by employing them. Serving delicious homemade food, Skylight Café is a social enterprise that helps their trainees into stable employment.

What they say: “To date, we have helped over 130 people into permanent jobs. Three bookings of 40 people could pay for one trainee to train at Crisis Skylight Cafe to employment level.”

To make a booking contact Cassia Weaver on 020 7426 5676/ or visit Skylight Café, 64 Commercial Street, London E1.


Hackney Winter Night Shelter

Each night during the coldest months of the year, a hall in Hackney is transformed into a shelter for homeless people. Last winter 557 volunteers from around the borough helped run the shelter, making 2191 beds and 4532 meals.

What they say: “Our volunteer rotas are almost full for this winter, but we still need volunteers for overnight and early morning shifts.”

If you would like to volunteer, please fill in and return our Volunteering Form or get in touch via email:

North London Action for the Homeless

Based in Stoke Newington, the NLAH is a small charity that provides a drop in centre for the homeless. They run a kitchen serving a free three-course vegetarian meal twice a week (Monday lunch: 12pm – 1.30pm, and Wednesday supper: 7pm – 8.30pm).

What they say: “Volunteering at NLAH provides opportunities to get alongside people who are often needy, vulnerable, and sometimes challenging in their behaviour. A sympathetic attitude is more important than experience or knowledge.”


  1. Clair hawkins October 5, 2013
  2. Roy Harris November 23, 2013
  3. Helen ANNIS November 23, 2013
  4. Victoria Hazell December 2, 2013
  5. Ellie zinonos December 8, 2013
  6. Terry Kirby December 17, 2013
  7. Ruth December 23, 2013
  8. Terry Kirby December 24, 2013

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