Crisis is a charity which is run for single homeless people, and throughout the year, they work tirelessly to support them in different ways. In previous years, all forms of homelessness were on the decline, however in 2010, the trend changed and each year, this number is on the rise. In 2015/16 8096 people were sleeping rough on the streets of London; this is an increase of 7% compared with the previous year.

There are four main areas in which the charity focuses, namely, education, employment, housing and health & wellbeing. They run coaching and teaching sessions to give people a chance to enhance their knowledge and skills, enabling them to eventually gain employment and housing.

Each year at Christmas, Crisis run multiple centres across the country, providing those without a home some companionship, warm food and shelter. This year, there were approximately 11,000 volunteers who took time out to help run these services across Birmingham, Coventry, Edinburgh, London and Newcastle. From podiatry to hairdressing, massages and sewing, the list of services available to the ‘guests’ of the centre is endless. The healthcare team is also on hand, with medics, dentists and opticians providing medical assistance, dental treatment and eye examinations.

The catering team and kitchen staff do a wonderful job of providing hot meals throughout the day, whilst other volunteers help with the serving, cleaning, and providing company to the guests –some have even joined them on the Karaoke stage!

This year, I decided to spend another Christmas at Crisis. Back in 2011, being a newly qualified dentist, I came across an advert for volunteers in a dental journal. Being a person who is always looking for something to “get my teeth into”, I felt that it was a great opportunity to meet others, whilst providing a service to those less fortunate. What was initially perceived as a daunting experience has turned into somewhat of a routine for me; 5 years later and I am still doing it!

My first experience was an eye opening and a challenging one: we had two mobile dental units (vans) set up, in what can only be described as a large warehouse. Guests who wanted to see the dentist were invited, and routine check-ups, cleans, fillings and extractions were carried out. What was so great was the amount of teamwork involved. There are separate dental service volunteers, and we take on different roles throughout the day. One minute I was the dentist, the next I was cleaning instruments, and the following shift I was a dental nurse. Not only did I get to meet some wonderful colleagues, but it also helped me to appreciate my dental nurse when I got back to work!

Each experience comes with challenges. Being a newly qualified dentist, I struggled with a dental extraction and, at my relief, a more experienced colleague came to the rescue! The guests are also very appreciative of the work carried out. Many of them do not have the opportunity to seek dental care during the year and could be in pain for months. One of the most popular requests is to have a simple “scale and polish” so they can have their stains removed and can smile again!

This year I decided I wanted to take my commitment to the next stage and applied for the role as a shift leader for the team. This involved organising roles within the team and making sure the service ran smoothly. What did hit me this year, was that having been doing this for the last few years (even though it was nice to see the guests year on year), it was sad to realise that they were still struggling and still re-attending the centres each year.

Homelessness can strike anyone at any time –a loss of a job, a failed marriage, domestic violence, all these things can rapidly affect one’s life. I remember one year, one of the guests telling me all about their recent split from his partner, and that he wanted to get his teeth cleaned as he was going to visit his younger daughter. He showed me her picture, and it almost brought a tear to my eye.

Sometimes we forget to appreciate what we have around us –our home, our family, our friends. Take a minute to value everything you have, since none of us know what life has in store for us around the corner. Our time is one of the most precious things we have and we must never forget that. You will be making a difference to someone –even if it’s by making them laugh and forgetting their worries for that short period of time.

— Rima Patel
Former Events Team Member