'Very special' Christmas charity event hosts hundreds of homeless people in Bristol

  • Watch Marina Jenkins' report with Caring in Bristol as they prepare to host hundreds of homeless people this Christmas

A Bristol-based charity is hosting hundreds of people experiencing homelessness this Christmas.

Caring at Christmas, run by Caring in Bristol, launched on Christmas Eve and will run for seven days.

The week-long event is held at Trinity Centre in Bristol. Restaurant-quality food, support and advice and entertainment is provided - but most importantly, community.

Reflecting on the first day, one of the guests said: "I've had a brilliant day eating, chatting and catching up with people. Everyone's been so kind and welcoming.

"I feel quite overwhelmed that everyone is so kind."

Ben Richardson, Caring in Bristol's director, said: “It has got off to a fantastic start. It’s been a tougher year than most to experience homelessness.

"But the warm welcome and support from our volunteers, and food cooked by our restaurant partners, reminds them how much they are valued.

"The uplifting atmosphere provides a much needed boost for everyone who joins us. Feeling part of a community, especially at Christmas, is so important.” 

More than 300 volunteers are involved with the week-long project Credit: Tom Ham

The main event is the Big Christmas Dinner held on December 25. The meals were cooked by Team Canteen and led by Michelin starred chef Josh Eggleton of the Pony Chew Valley.

On Christmas Day, volunteers also delivered around 200 meals to people in temporary or precarious accommodation, and those unable to get to the city centre.

Amy Caburn, a project manager at Caring in Bristol, said: "If people would like it, part of the volunteer role is to stay at their doorstep and chat to them a little bit.

"I think Christmas can be a very lonely time for people. So to have a conversation with someone dropping off a meal can make all the difference - I think it's very special."

Caring in Bristol's event is the largest Christmas homelessness project running in the South West.

Last year, the charity welcomed more than 550 people through the doors and this Christmas, the team is expecting many more.

Meals are also delivered to those who cannot get to Trinity Centre in person Credit: Caring in Bristol

Alv Hirst, Caring in Bristol’s storytelling coordinator, said: “Homelessness is something that makes you feel apart from everything else. But we know that it is possible to bring people around the table.

"By doing that, people can have a positive experience and it's a good way to start the New Year.

"People who experience homelessness tell us that they often feel left out in the cold. We think that this can’t be right, so we’ve created a place for them at the Christmas table.

"We’ll continue our work because everyone deserves a home, and no one deserves to be homeless.” 

This huge operation is made possible by a team of more than 300 volunteers and charity employees.

Tony Shepherd, kitchen manager, says it's all about 'the energy of giving'

Tony Shepherd, who is the kitchen manager, had a tear in his eye when speaking to ITV West Country saying: "There's just something about giving. You get so much back from it.

"It's the energy of giving. When the guests look at you and they've got joy on their faces with a huge plate of food in front of them - that means everything.

"It's the only 'thank you' I need."

At Trinity Centre, guests are able to access a pantry supported by Fareshare Southwest where they can take away food, grocery items and festive treats.

There is also an extensive clothing store with a range of men's and women's clothing, plus bedding, toiletries and other essentials.

Bristol Paws Project is even providing packs for those who have dogs. Inside the bags are dog food, toys, treats, food and care items.

Donations, from many business and individuals, have been flooding in for months. Leonie Watkins, the donations coordinator for Caring in Bristol, said a huge amount is needed.

Leonie said: "We've been accepting blankets, sleeping bags and toiletries, and so many other things. It's unbelievable.

"Our amazing volunteers have been making up night kits which have everything to help someone sleep comfortably at a hostel.

"We've had so many clothes donations. Usually we have plenty of women's clothes and are in short supply of men's clothes, but this year it is pretty equal. Which is great."

Caring in Bristol is giving a very warm welcome to anyone who needs help - as the team believes no one should be left out in the cold this Christmas.