‘What are you doing for Christmas?’  he asked.
‘Crisis,’ I said.
‘Yeah, a friend of mine does that. She spends most of the year blogging about her collection of Louis Vuitton handbags then at Christmas she’s with the cool kids.’

By making volunteers feel treasured, Crisis has pulled off the minor miracle of making it cool – or whatever your/my word for that is – to spend Christmas with people who are mainly homeless and single.

I’d been curious about Crisis for years but felt that I couldn’t handle scary homeless people. Then I started drawing at the Occupy protest camps and squats. Compared with that, Crisis is a doddle.

Do you want to be a manicurist for a day, drive a van, walk a rough sleeper’s dog, act as an interpreter, run a yoga class, play chess, give legal advice, make dinner, coach indoor football, hear all the life stories you can handle from guests and volunteers? The only scary people are the Green Badges – shift leaders wearing reindeer antlers and swearing into walkie-talkies.

By the rivers of Babylon, where we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.

That over-exposed Boney M song came on the karaoke and a pale woman took the microphone. We were in the vast communal area of a college: table-tennis, people sleeping on sofas, The Wizard of Oz coming up on TV.  Surely every guest had a better time, a better place to remember than this Christmas Day. Like the young Eastern European girl who pretended to her mother back home that she had a good job and a nice flat. But this isn’t the time or place for weeping. Come on, have a Quality Street.

Crisis and Shelter are intervening in today’s cases: Hotak v London Borough of Southwark, Johnson v Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, Kanu v London Borough of Southwark. The chilling concept of ‘ordinary street homelessness’ is explored. Does the Pereira test – to assess a homeless person’s priority need – work? You can own a home and still be homeless if, for example, you are the victim of domestic violence.

Dusty:  How about Pereira?
Doris:  What about Pereira? 
            I don’t care. 
Dusty: You don’t care? 
           Who pays the rent?
– Sweeney Agonistes, T. S. Eliot

As it’s pointed out in court today, a lot of people are two wage packets away from homelessness. I can remember, as an infant, being told by my mother to hide under a table when the rent man was due to knock at the front door, so that he wouldn’t see us through the window. I think it was only two or three times, but the sound of that unanswered knock doesn’t leave you.

I wrote about my experiences at Crisis here.

More pictures if you scroll down.

This post originally featured on Isobel’s blog Drawing from an uncomfortable position on 16 December 2014.

Guest and volunteer at Crisis