Housing

The homelessness charity hoping to serve 200 Christmas dinners in a train station

'I want people to be able to pick what they want. If you don’t like sprouts why would you have to put them on your plate?' says Brian Burridge of charity North East Homeless.

Volunteers on Christmas Eve serving dinner to guests in Newcastle Central train station Image: North East Homeless

A homelessness charity has its sights set on serving 200 Christmas dinners with all the trimmings to people in Newcastle Central train station this Christmas Eve. 

After the meal was cancelled due to Covid last year, organiser Brian Burridge hopes this year North East Homeless will raise enough money to serve a hot dinner to everybody that needs one. 

Christmas Eve in Newcastle train station two years ago Image: North East Homeless

At past events, Burridge and his team have served Christmas meals mostly to people sleeping rough, but he thinks there’ll be more families and young people at this one, and “people who haven’t got the money to put the heating on.”

This will be the fourth Christmas Eve dinner the charity is serving in the iconic Victorian train station, chosen because it’s covered, isn’t “hidden away in a back room,” and has space for a choir to sing festive songs for guests. 

“It’s good to see people getting something good, and not just the scraps” said Burridge. 

“When you go to a soup kitchen you just get what you get, but I wanted them to be able to pick what they want. If you don’t like sprouts why would you have to put them on your plate? It puts dignity back in it.” 

The charity runs a vibrant community space called The Fish Quay Hub in North Shields, which is open to anyone that needs it and the general public who can visit the café and a social supermarket, which is run on a ‘take what you need, leave what you can’ basis.

Big Issue vendor Earl Charlton sold the magazine outside Newcastle Central Station for many years, before starting as a support worker with North East Homeless. 

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The charity is also hoping to give stockings – some hand-knitted by local residents – to people attending the meal. The stockings will include practical items such as a torch, mobile phone charger, thermal cup and pair of thermal socks and gloves.

There will also be Christmas cards with stamps so that guests can write to a loved one if they wish. 

“Just for one person to be able to write a card and send it home to say ‘Alright Dad, I’m ok,’ and that might bridge a gap for them,” explained Burridge.

North East Homeless is asking people to donate £5 to cover the cost of a hot Christmas Eve dinner, with any additional monies going towards items to go in stockings. 

Donate here.

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