Thanks to the wonderful donations we received in December we were able to provide a lovely Christmas lunch for rough sleepers and vulnerable and isolated service users.
Everton turned the streets Blue again on Wednesday evening, with Leighton Baines the star guest.
The England international arrived at the Belvidere Road Family Centre in Toxteth as part of the Club's week-long crusade to spread Christmas cheer to those who deserve it most.
The centre, which is managed in partnership by The Whitechapel Centre and Shap, provides vital services for homeless families needing emergency housing - a scenario which is thrust most poignantly into the spotlight at this time of year.
As well as Baines' visit, there was also a Blue Crimbo street party, with music from Jennifer Jewel, giveaways and Blue Santa in attendance.
The left-back post for photos with kids before handing out dozens of gifts.
Everton defender Baines said: "It is important that we get out and do things to help the community. It has been great that I have been able to put few smiles on some children's faces."
Baines also brought his own children to the event. "I wanted them to see that it's not all about running round a football pitch," he explained. "We know we are privileged to play football for a living and it's important they know that too."
Sheila Smith, from the centre, said: "We are here to provide shelter and safety for families who need it most. It is something which is particularly important at this time of year. Visits like this help to put a smile on the kids' faces and that's important as some of them have had traumatic experiences so far in their lives."
As well as Baines' visit, Everton also donated £500 of toys to ensure all the children in residence at the centre have something to enjoy on Christmas Day.
Dave has had a life peppered with addictions to heroin, crack and alcohol and time spent in various prisons.
Dave rented a flat off Scotland Road, but because it was burgled a couple of times and set on fire, it wasn’t habitable. He was having major problems with his landlord to get any repair work done at all.
After a split with his girlfriend, who he has a child to, Dave started drinking and ended up sleeping on a friends couch. The friend was already being supported by The Whitechapel Centre and this is how we first met Dave, in March 2012.
When Dave was allocated a support worker, Peter , he felt life wasn’t worth living. He was constantly drinking and taking cocaine, which left him very depressed and, in the week before they met, he had tried to take his own life with an overdose of sleeping tablets.
Peter spent time talking to Dave, he explains, “Despite his depression I discovered that he has a good sense of humour and I think I managed to connect to him through this. I let him know that there is someone there on his side, who does care about him and I’d be there for him until he’s back clean and sober, something he thought he would never be able to manage.”
Peter booked appointments for Dave at LCAS (Liverpool Community Alcohol Service) and accompanied him to each one. At first he was pretty aggressive towards staff, but would always apologise and say he was sorry. He didn’t know why he was acting this way.
In June Peter took Dave to look around the Park View Project. After meeting with the manager there Dave decided he would like to go in and stay.
Peter made arrangements for Dave to go into The Windsor Clinic to detox and to then go immediately to Park View, so that he did not have time to start drinking again. Dave did well in The Windsor Clinic, Peter continued to visit him there and they could both see the change in him.
Peter was there again when Dave left the Windsor Clinic and took him straight over to Park View and signed him in. Dave successfully completed his 8 month stay in Park View and has now moved into supported housing.
Dave said, “I can’t thank the Whitechapel Centre enough. Peter’s support went far beyond what I expected. He took me to appointments when I know a drink or a drug would have got in the way. He always had my best interests at heart, he gave me courage and he pushed me to achieve this.
“I will never forget the help I got, when I met Peter I was at such a low point I could easily be dead now. I wanted to die, but now I want to be alive. I keep myself busy, I’ve got 28 years experience of drink and drugs so now I volunteer as a peer mentor, supporting people who are still in that place. I’m living proof that there is a way out.”
Steven Naismith has once again sponsored a Christmas lunch for The Whitechapel Centre for a second year running.
Everton's main club sponsor and partner, Chang, also got involved in the initiative again by donating scarves, hats, blankets and other items of warm clothing for the service users.
Naismith said: “I am now in my second season with Everton and now feel very much part of the Liverpool community.
“In sponsoring the lunch, I want to give something back to those less fortunate in the city. I feel a very lucky person to be a professional footballer in one of the best teams in the country. I am also aware that there are some in the city who face many challenges in life.
“I find the work done by the Whitechapel Centre team very humbling and I am delighted to sponsor the Christmas lunch following the success of last year’s event.
“The Centre’s ‘No Second Night Out Campaign’ is wonderful, where they aim to get every homeless person who walks through their doors a bed so there is no second night on the streets. I have had the pleasure of supporting a similar charity to this in Glasgow for the last couple of years called Loaves and Fishes and I wanted to bring a little Christmas cheer to my adopted city.”
David Carter, Chief Executive Officer of the Whitechapel Centre said: “We would like to thank Steven for again sponsoring this Christmas dinner. In addition to the money, which is very much needed and welcome, there is the other benefit of the awareness of the work done here, that a player of Steven’s profile can bring to the needs of the people who sleep each night on the streets of Liverpool.
“It is also important for people who have often become separated from their families to know that there are people out there who care and want to help. That is particularly important at this time of year.”
In the run up to the winter season, Sovini staff have been collecting warm coats and clothing to donate to the Whitechapel Centre.
The project, led by the Sovini Customer Empowerment Team, saw over 340 garments collected, most were unworn items, previously part of the uniform for One Vision Housing employees; as well as fleeces, hat, gloves, thermal underwear and outerwear.
The company took the opportunity to teach apprentices about being socially responsible. They involved them in the collection and organisation of the garments, and introduced them to Ruth McCaughley, from the Whitechapel Centre, who spoke to them about the homeless issues ongoing in Liverpool; raising their awareness and knowledge.
Customer Empowerment Manager, Ann Owens, said: “We have worked with the award-winning Whitechapel Centre for three years now, and this year’s collection has been better than ever. I think this is because we have continually raised their awareness of the homeless issues people are facing. We have a great relationship with the Whitechapel Centre and intend on working with them even more in the future.”
Fundraising Manager, Ruth McCaughley, said: “We’re extremely grateful to Sovini for all their support. This huge donation of clothing is certain to be snapped up in no time; helping to keep many warm this winter.”
The Whitechapel Centre