THIS Christmas 1,200 people are able to look forward to a happier Christmas than they ever dreamed possible--thanks to a charity launched on December 1 last year and the thousands of people throughout Britain who have become involved in its work.
SHELTER, National Campaign for the Homeless, set itself three tasks—to re-house as many slum families as money would allow. to publicise the urgent need of the homeless, and to involve as many people as the organisation could reach in a rescue operation that would have to continue into the 1")70s.
Its first task it achieved by passing the money on to nonprofitmaking housing associations—including the Catholic Housing Aid Society—where it is multiplied by loans and improvement grants enabling a family to be re-housed for £325, an old person for £100.
Its second task was also achieved—never before has the problem of homelessness been so widely publicised. SHELTER's report on the effects of living in Britain's slums on children, "Back to School . . ." received nationwide Press, radio and television coverage.
And thousands of people are now involved in SHELTER's money-raising campaign. Des Wilson, SHELTER's 26-yearold Director, reports: "This campaign depends completely on the involvement of people of all ages and all walls of life. Many now belong to more than 100 SHELTER groups— local fund-raising and publicity groups—spread over England. Scotland and Wales.
"SHELTER has been tremendously encouraged by the support of churches of all denominations and also by the keen interest shown in schools.
Among the particular appeals supported by churches of all denominations was SHELTER's challenge to "House a Family for Christnias".
Fr. Eamonn Casey. director of the Catholic Housing Aid Society, and a -SHELTER trustee, wrote to bishops throughout the country and gained their approval to write to priests. He said in his letter to the bishops: "Co-operation with SHELTER would be of great benefit, firstly to the homeless, secondly to the Catholic Housing Aid Society, and thirdly to the Catholic community."
The families re-housed from SHELTER funds are delighted with their new homes, which contrast sharply with their previous conditions.
For example, Mr. and Mrs. C. have seven children —the eldest 16, the youngest a baby. The environment of their old 'home" was getting them all down and more than one member of the family was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
They were living in one small room and one tiny kitchen, sharing a lavatory with other families. There was no bathroom. Their new kitchen is twice the size of the whole accommodation they were living in before. They now have five rooms, a kitchen and bathroom.
Des Wilson says: "We haven't time to be complacent about our first year's successes." Next year SHELTER's target is an average of one family a day re-housed throughout the year. Those who want to help should contact SHELTER, 86 Strand, London, W.C.2.