A 'small price to pay' for DENS staff helping homeless on Christmas Day

When Sean Fitzgerald and his team head into work on Christmas Day, they will be treating it like any other.

Friday, 22nd December 2017, 1:06 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd December 2017, 2:11 pm
DENS helped prepare 3,999 food parcels from April 2016-17, and will be helping out the homeless again on Christmas Eve and Day

Sean is manager of the Elms, a 44-bed hostel for homeless people in Hemel Hempstead by local charity DENS.

And workers and volunteers will be sacrificing their own Christmas Day to ensure that Elms residents have one to remember in tough times.

Outlining the day’s festivities, Sean tells the Gazette: “We will be opening presents at 11am, which have been donated to DENS through local residents and businesses, and we have some animals here so the Dogs Trust donate some gifts as well.

“At 2pm the local fire brigade will be serving dinner, then in the evening we will have quizzes, bingo and some festive films.

“It’s a 24-hour service – and we’ll have a couple of volunteers. I will be in as well as three other members of staff to make sure it’s ticking over. It’s just another day running it for us.”

Nevertheless it’s a huge source of pride for DENS chief Wendy Lewington to have staff on board so willing to put others first this Christmas.

She said: “It’s a big sacrifice for them, but they do it because they are committed to DENS and they want to ensure that the people in the hostel have a good Christmas.

“Some of the residents may have had uncomfortable Christmases before, and they just want to make it as enjoyable for them as possible, and make it almost like a family.”

Sean adds: “It really is quite touching coming over on Christmas Day and spending some time with them .

“It’s a small price to pay, because some of these people don’t have family or friends, which is why they’ve ended up staying here.

“I will be in for four or five hours, and it will be good to see everyone having a good time.

“It can be a lonely time of the year, so it’s important to keep it as upbeat as we can.”

It’s not just Christmas Day where DENS will be spreading the festive cheer.

On Christmas Eve, they will be delivering hampers to 60 of the most needy households in Dacorum. The hampers, which feature Christmas staples such as puddings, mince pies and crackers, also include gifts.

“We have a very generous community who have donated a lot,” says Wendy.

“I took a hamper last year to a single mum with a five-year-old son, and it was wonderful to see the difference it made.”

Whether it’s through a relationship breakdown, a job loss or an illness, being homeless or isolated at Christmas must be particularly galling.

So raise a glass to the DENS staff and volunteers who are helping to make a difference.