The Christmas spirit is alive and well in Calderdale after a homeless project received an “overwhelming” response to its hampers appeal.
Halifax Homeless and Community Kitchen opened in January and runs every Sunday next to Halifax Bus Station between noon and 3pm, serving meals and giving food, toiletries and sometimes even clothes to take away.
It also takes food packages to schools for them to give to families in need. Donations are made from local restaurants and supermarkets.
With Christmas round the corner, they are putting together 26 hampers to families nominated by schools in the borough, which will be handed out in the final school week before the Christmas break.
Nicola Freemantle, from the group, said: “We’ve had an amazing response, it’s been overwhelming.
“It’s not just businesses, but beaver groups, members of the public, people from outside the area.
“We’re just trying to give families throughout Calderdale something positive before the schools break up for Christmas.
“Hopefully with these hampers, they can produce hot meals for a week or two. They’ll also get some treats and some toys so that they can have a bit extra through the Christmas period.
“We’re working with other organisations so we can provide things like comfy pyjamas and slippers.”
Nicola, who has lived in Calderdale for 20 years, says the group wants to do their bit to try and alleviate the problem of families not being able to make ends meet. “They are families we know are struggling all-year round but we want to make Christmas a little easier for them and give them some normality,” she said.
“It’s a massive eye-opener. It’s the first time I’ve been involved in something like this and I didn’t know how many people were struggling within Calderdale and around the country.
“We’ve talked to schools who have told us that last year, some children opened a box of tissues or a packet of body wipes on Christmas morning.
“So to give them something that’s properly theirs and for them not to have to worry about what it’s cost is massively important, because it can have an impact on their mental health and their well-being.
“And there is a stigma around having the latest clothing or the latest toy. It’s about showing them that we care about them and showing the love.”
The group has around 10 volunteers who help out every week. It is a not-for-profit organisation and exists entirely on donations.
“We work with supermarkets like Aldi and Marks and Spencer, and the Hare and Hounds in Hipperholme and Deli on the Bridge in Halifax are great, they bring us dishes and sandwiches to give out,” said Nicola.
“The demand drops off a bit in winter because people don’t want to come out but we get around 60-80 people a week.
“When we first started it was around 25-30 but it’s grown and grown and in the summer we were feeding around 150.
“A lot of them are not homeless, they’re just families who can’t afford to feed their children.
“They might have a roof over their head but they have to choose between paying the rent or buying food.
“But if we can help them then it means they can pay the rent and not end up homeless.” The deadline for donations for the hampers is December 8. For more information, visit Halifax Homeless and Community Kitchen’s Facebook page or email email@example.com.