People across the UK are coming together over Christmas to support hundreds of those less fortunate than themselves with parties, meals, presents and a warm bed for the night.
Restaurants, hotels and charities are among dozens of organisations spreading good will amid rising levels of rough sleepers and loneliness.
In Hartlepool, local businesses have joined forces to offer homeless people a bed and meal.
The town’s Douglas Hotel will be almost full of people in need on Christmas Eve, with restaurants providing food, businesses and the public paying for presents and the hotel giving people a bed, shower facilities and a full English breakfast to see them off in the morning, according to owner Raqueeb Ramzan.
“It’s something I wanted to do for a long time,” Mr Ramzan told the Press Association, adding that nearly all of the hotel’s 18 rooms will be made available.
Local business owner Jack Griffiths, 23, said his company contributed the money it would have spent on a Christmas party to the cause.
“Everyone is coming together with it. We hope it will be an annual thing,” he told the Hartlepool Mail.
The latest Government figures show there were nearly 5,000 people sleeping rough in England in autumn 2017, a number that has risen every year since 2010.
Nearly 600 people died on the streets or in temporary accommodation in England and Wales last year, up 24% in five years, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Birmingham’s New Street station, the busiest in the city, will be hosting a Christmas dinner and party for hundreds of homeless people on Christmas Eve.
The Midland Langar Seva Society, which helps homeless people around the UK and wider world, has teamed up with Network Rail to lay on a three-course banquet at the station, complete with carol singers, a DJ and gift-wrapped presents.
Pat Power, Birmingham New Street station manager, said: “We are really looking forward to hosting this event on the station concourse this Christmas Eve.
“Midland Langar Seva Society do great work nearly every night of the year across the Midlands and beyond, and it’s a pleasure to be able to host this special Christmas treat for the many people they regularly help in Birmingham, by giving them a hot meal.”
To the east of the city, “Britain’s best takeaway” is aiming to provide at least 100 hot meals to any homeless people or struggling families on Christmas Day.
Lime Pickle, in the Castle Bromwich area of Birmingham, was named Britain’s best takeaway in 2017 and owner Jay Alom said the restaurant has tried to do something to give back to the community in recent years.
He told the Birmingham Mail: “We have spoken to a lot of food banks who have said they are at a crisis point, they are having to turn people away now because they don’t have enough.
“We believe in giving back to the community.
“We wouldn’t be here without them, and you always have to remember it does not take much to make you homeless. My mum and dad would always tell me that lesson.”
And staff at the Neath Port Talbot hospital in Wales will be holding the 16th annual Christmas Day lunch for the most vulnerable members of the community who will be alone over Christmas.
Staff at Neath Port Talbot Hospital are once again giving up their time to organise a Christmas Day lunch for those in…
Psychiatric nurse Jane Briggs, who started the tradition with colleagues, said: “Every year more and more people have come to the lunch. Last year we catered for 35 people.
“We are so pleased that we are able to do this for our patients and can’t thank our local community and businesses enough who contribute to help make this happen.
“It’s amazing to see the smiles on everyone’s faces year after year as they enjoy Christmas Day surrounded by people who then become friends.”