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Lloyd Wylde, Crisis at Christmas volunteer
Photograph: Andy Parsons

Things you only know if you’re a Crisis at Christmas volunteer

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…according to Lloyd Wylde, 49.

To a homeless Londoner, a haircut can mean a lot

‘This year we’ve got 11 Crisis at Christmas centres across London hosting homeless people between December 23 and 30. We set up a cinema, a clothing station, a non-stop tea and coffee point… But one of the most popular things we offer is hairdressing. Many guests come back and have another inch off every day we’re open. We wash their hair, blow-dry it, give them some product – it’s about being treated like a human being. There is always a queue.’

Everyone is entitled to be picky about Christmas dinner

‘We absolutely have to have Christmas dinner – if there wasn’t any there would be a riot. And I tell you, the guests are very particular – they’ve always got tips for the chef. It’s funny getting the comments: “Well, I thought the turkey was a bit overdone,” or “The brussels sprouts could have had a bit longer.”’

There’s an annual footie league between Crisis centres

‘The teams are made up of guests, and at our centre in east London we have footballers from West Ham come in to train with them before the match. Last year, my centre came back with the trophy and it was like they’d won the FA Cup. We were just one group of people standing and cheering and celebrating together. That’s what it’s all about – there’s no them and us.’

Saying goodbye is the hardest part

‘We can’t work miracles in a week, and it’s difficult when you have to say goodbye to one of the guests and you don’t know what the year is going to hold for them. You hope that you’re not going to see them again, but part of you is always wondering what’s happened to people: whether they’ve gone under or survived. To know that you can’t help everyone – that’s really hard.’

Crisis still needs volunteers for Christmas 2019, especially for night shifts, catering, hairdressing, legal and welfare advice, therapy and counselling. Find out more at www.crisis.org.uk.

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