This winter, The Winter Forest at Broadgate is partnering with the charity Centrepoint which works to give homeless young people a future.
We spoke to Centrepoint ambassador, presenter and actress, Lisa Maxwell about why the charity is so special and how you can make all the difference.
How did you get involved in Centrepoint?
It was about 18 years ago, Chris Tarrant the TV presenter asked me to get involved via Capital Radio then a few years later he asked me to take part in a sleepout. There was about 10 of us and that was the first sleepout that’d ever been done to raise money and awareness.
And, that night changed my life. I met a girl who was 29 and she’d been sleeping rough since she was 17. We spent most of the night talking and it was such a sad story. She’d been abused by her father and her life had spun out of control as a result. She’d met a bad lad who’d introduced her to drugs, they’d had a child who’d been taken from them and, at the age of 17, she fled. She’d no intention of living on the streets but, 12 years later, she was still out there.
She was lovely and she wasn’t asking for anything – she just wanted to chat. When I got up the next morning, I was tired and jaded and the thought of not being able to wash or go anywhere for something to eat... I just thought ‘I can’t have this experience and not give anything back’. I told Centrepoint if there’s anything you need me to do then let me know.
Centrepoint ambassador, actress and presenter, Lisa Maxwell
What does Centrepoint do that’s different to other charities?
Centrepoint research found that 103,000 young people presented to local authorities as homeless or at risk last year plus there are young asylum seekers in need of help too. The young people that Centrepoint help aren’t choosing to be homeless – they’re often fleeing situations that are intolerable and end up caught in the homeless cycle.
The great thing about Centrepoint is it’s not just a bed for the night; when people invest and donate they really are enabling young people to stand on their own two feet: to find a job and live independently.
How does the support of businesses such as Broadgate make a difference?
It’s brilliant that Broadgate and all the restaurants are supporting us because as a charity, Centrepoint depends on donations to operate. Because they need help to rehabilitate these young people. They’re often dealing with mental health problems or drug and alcohol problems so they need counsellors and psychiatrists which all cost money. And, we find it hard to keep up with the demand.
We’ve got key workers who are like guardian angels – they are the one good mentor a homeless young person has never had. They get shouted at and put themselves in tricky situations and we need to be able to pay them. They do some incredible things and we can’t have enough of them so we can give one-on-one nurturing support. Centrepoint also provide opportunities to build self-esteem and let these young people know they matter. Our patron, the Duke of Cambridge, is fully engaged with the charity and takes time to visit Centrepoint and meet young people.
What can people do themselves?
You can donate via the website and also support Centrepoint’s More Than A Gift campaign and buy someone Christmas dinner or another gift. Plus, there are sleepouts every year for individuals and businesses. You can also let people know about Centrepoint’s helpline service – support is available online through Centrepoint’s website or over the phone. The number is 0808 800 0661.
We all see homeless people in doorways every day and people avert their eyes because they’ve got their own stressful lives but I’d say just acknowledge there’s an actual person there. Smile and say hello, you don’t have to give anything – it’s just about acknowledging them.
But, my feeling would be that Centrepoint needs money and donations are the best way to help us. We can’t afford all the resources without people’s support. It’s the people who decide to donate £10 a month forever who keep us going.
If you’re part of a business who’d like to support Centrepoint or partner with the charity click here: https://centrepoint.org.uk/get-involved/corporate-partnerships/. For more information, please visit www.centrepoint.org.uk or support them on social media:
· Facebook: www.facebook.com/centrepoint.charity
· Twitter: www.twitter.com/centrepointuk
· YouTube: www.youtube.com/centrepointuk
Help us help Centrepoint this Christmas.
Help us help Centrepoint this festive season. We've made it even easier to show your support this year, you can now donate to Centrepoint online via our JustGiving Page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/broadgate-winter-forest