IT’S the season of goodwill and one South Shields mum is giving up Christmas to spread festive cheer amongst the homeless.
Karen Redpath will be swapping her traditional tree and Yuletide decorations for an apron and a hair net when she spends Christmas Day feeding homeless people.
The 45-year-old, of Grotto Gardens, Marsden, is also raising funds for Newcastle-based homeless charity, Crisis, during its Crisis at Christmas campaign.
She’s already pulled in more than £2,000 and has collected clothes, blankets, tinned food, and toiletries to donate to the people that the charity helps.
Karen first dedicated her Christmas to the homeless in 2011, when her son Scott, 24, who is studying in Australia, announced he wouldn’t be home for the festive period.
She said: “Scott went over to Australia in 2011 and he’s my only family, so it wasn’t really Christmas without him anyway. I decided to spend Christmas Day feeding homeless people at St Michael’s Church, in South Shields.
“It was brilliant and I’m so glad that I did it. It really makes you realise what you’ve got. All the people who came for food were being handed second-hand quilts on their way out and it was just heartbreaking.
“I think people don’t realise that there are homeless people right here on their doorsteps.
“Some of them are ex-military and some have fallen on hard times, but I think some people write-off all homeless people as drunks and drug addicts – that’s not the case.” Now Karen is again dedicating her Christmas to helping others.
She said: “I lost my job in May through no fault of my own, and was supposed to be getting full pay, but I didn’t, and couldn’t claim job seekers’ allowance either, so I had no money coming in at all.
“I had to rely on my friends to get by and I came really close to losing my house. Becoming homeless is a change in circumstance that could happen to any of us at any time, and I know that because I came close.
“When I knew Scott wasn’t coming home this Christmas, I did a bit of research and applied to volunteer for Crisis at Christmas and was delighted when I was accepted.
“I’ve been collecting food and blankets and things to donate and I’ve asked people to sponsor me to raise money for the charity, and I can’t believe how generous everyone has been. I’m really grateful.
“There are times when I’m sat in the house and it’s freezing because I can’t afford to put the heating on, but at least I’ve got a roof over my head. Think about the people who haven’t.
“It’s meant to be a time of year for helping others, especially those less fortunate than ourselves. I think there is a misconception about homeless people and it’s not right.
“I’m looking forward to spending my Christmas with them, and if Scott is home next year, we’re going to do it together.”
To sponsor Karen, go to uk.virginmoneygiving.com/giving and search for ‘Karen Redpath’.