Christmas is a time of togetherness, and yet we often spend the build-up in our own world, wrapped up in the stress to be ready in time. As we cram into already overcrowded areas, queue seemingly endlessly and wrack our brains to find something half-decent for our loved ones, we tend to dehumanise most of the people around us. We each have a hundred things we need to get done, and everyone else is in our way.

Party Protest Manchester, an informal protest group, is trying to change this. They are appealing for volunteers to attend a free Christmas dinner at the Cross Street Chapel in the company of members of Manchester’s homeless community on December 19th. This is the second year the group has organised this special festive dinner.

Bringing peo15284999_1261053243938417_3228080444855068939_nple together

“It’s bringing the community together to interact with people they would usually walk past” says Emma Leyla of Party Protest MCR “volunteers get to meet someone who is homeless and spend time with them, to make them feel a part of the community”.

Christmas on the streets

Winter is an especially difficult time for rough sleepers. The daily struggle for survival becomes harder still as the temperature drops, putting lives at risk. As the physical battle to survive intensifies, so too does the alienation that may cause or worsen serious mental health issues. Being homeless can be a deeply dehumanizing experience, and those in city centres find themselves being ignored by hundreds of people on a daily basis.

Manchester’s Christmas markets not only push rough sleepers out of their usual hangouts, they attract hordes of shoppers with a single-minded focus on getting their shopping done as quickly as possible. For Manchester’s homeless, this means an increase in ignored pleas for help, an increase in avoided eye-contact and a constant reminder of a celebration to which many are made to feel unwelcome. A lot of rough sleepers have either no families or are estranged from their relatives. What is the happiest time of year for most of us can serve to compound their misery and exclusion.

An event for the whole community

The dinner, which will be served between midday and 4pm, will be provided by The Bricklayers Arms in Ordsall, Tracey Branchflower (who regularly helps rough sleepers for Street Support Salford) as well as Nandos, who will be providing peri peri chicken for the buffet. Prior registration is not necessary, diners can just pop down on the day.

Anyone attending is encouraged to bring a Christmas present for the homeless person they eat with – anything from a box of chocolates to a wooly jumper would go a long way for someone who wouldn’t otherwise receive a gift this year.

Anyone with a few hours to spare is urged to spend just a little of their time in this busy period sharing a free dinner with the less fortunate. This will both acknowledge the plight of fellow Mancunians and try and embrace the spirit of love and togetherness that makes Christmas worthwhile. Not only could it mean the world to someone who has very little, it may well enrich your Christmas as well.

Edd Poole

You can find out more about Party Protest Mcr and the event here

Featured image via Party Protest Mcr (with permission)

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