Meet Paul from Basildon, who was struggling on Universal Credit and disability benefits and with loneliness when he was pointed in the direction of his local Salvation Army during the pandemic.
"I came here and thought they were great,” he says, “I know about The Salvation Army…In the Pandemic they've come back into their own. It's nice to be a part of it. I am disabled and my mum is in a home. The Salvation Army are a family to me. Literally, because I've got no-one. They dish out food and they also dish out love and kindness. That's something.
"They serve food, but they are not just a cafe. They fill you with warmth and love…I've been a recluse for most of my life and I made a decision during the pandemic to join [people]. It was the right decision. They (The Salvation Army) look after me."
Last Christmas, Paul made an effort to join in the festivities with an alternative-style Santa outfit, and enjoyed a generous Salvation Army Christmas dinner.
"It was a great big, full platter,” he remembers, “It was a turkey roast, dished up with love. It was everything you could wish for apart from snow!”
Even though the Christmas dinner was served outdoors in a cardboard box, due to the pandemic, Paul didn't mind. He says:
"We made something of it…it was an alternative outdoor venture! It made a big difference. Christmas was a big part of my life. I lost my dad in the eighties and my mum is not there now. We were really into Christmas.
"Being on my own with just YouTube is not the same as being here in the company of others. This is what saves us from going under. The Salvation Army is making a real difference. Without them I would be having suicidal thoughts…They are here for the people. People should know about it…Coming here is a lovely experience."
Help us bring festive joy to more people like Paul this Christmas:
For 15 terrible months Stephen slept rough, seeking shelter in parks, car parks, shopping arcades or anywhere he could feel safe.
Following the breakdown of his marriage, Mick lost his job and ended rough sleeping in Glasgow. We helped him get back on his feet and into a home of his own.
Wayne spent 15 years on the streets but his life changed for the better thanks to Housing First.
This Christmas we want to reach out to the people who are suffering the most by bringing joy and hope into their lives this Christmastime.