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World News

'People spending all day on the bus just for a hello': Salvation Army urging Christians to reach out as deprivation rises

by Will Hobbs

Almost 64 per cent of the UK has seen more signs of people experiencing deprivation in their community this year.

New research from The Salvation Army shows that worries about the cost of living, the state of the world, and paying for presents, are leading to many struggling to find Christmas joy.

Major Estelle Blake is a church leader at the Christian charity. She told Premier desperation at the cost of bills and staying warm is often combined with loneliness.  She said they often hear of people in very poignant situations looking for community. 

"We've certainly had cases in the area I live in of people hearing about older people getting on a bus all day, which they can with their [free] bus pass, and just staying on the bus because they know somebody might say hello to them when they're on the bus.

"People just sitting around in cafes buying one cup of tea that maybe cost them a pound and it lasting them for three to four hours, with the hope that they might find some really friendly people.

She said, it's one area where the charity can make a real difference:

"The comfort and the joy the Salvation Army bring into that isn't just because the person is desperate for a cup of tea.  They're desperate for somebody just to say, 'Hi, how are you?' Or smile at them."

According to Major Blake, Salvation Army will be providing 76,000 toy parcels to families in need this year, and at least 3000 beds for the homeless. 

She's encouraged Christians who are able to, to seek out those that they can help with food, and invite the lonely in to join in Christmas Day fellowship.  She hopes Christmas can be a time for new volunteers to be propelled into longer term service.

"We have residential places, we have emergency pop-up places where we work alongside other churches - but Christmas isn't just the time of us giving people things, it is a time of working with people, not just now but through the year."
She encouraged everyone to do what they can, and shared how she will be getting involved on 25th December:

"I'm going to support one of our local Salvation Army's on Christmas Day, by picking people up and spending Christmas Day with them - having some fun with them and making sure they realise that there are people who care."

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