Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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A reporter's view of the Crisis services

September 26 2009
Most of the feedback was positive, says our mole (but get your facts straight, Shaks) The 34th Crisis Open Christmas took place from the 23rd to the 30th of December and an estimated 1,500 people made use of either the main shelter which was this year based at the London Arena on the Isle of Dogs, and smaller satellite shelters across the city. As well as providing a place to sleep and hot meals, including a full Christmas dinner on the 25th, all the venues offered a wide range of activities and services. Doctors, dentists, opticians and chiropodists were available to deal with health concerns (although, ironically, illness amongst the volunteers meant medical centre services were limited towards the end of the week). Massages was available to ease aches and pains, and for those interested in complimentary therapy there was also reiki. Sports on offer included football, cricket and tennis facilities. Evening entertainment consisted of the ever-popular karaoke, as well as bingo, films and live bands. The days could be spent surfing the internet, reading from the library, or getting creative in the arts. More seriously, advice on housing, education and dependency was available. There was an emphasis on using Crisis as a 'gateway' to accessing such services, not only during the festive period but also on maintaining this contact with them throughout the year. However, criticism has been made from several sides of Crisis. Year-round medical services for the homeless balked at comments made by Shaks Ghosh, chief executive of Crisis, on the 23rd December. She said that for many "it's the one chance in the year to get a doctor or dentist." A glance at our medical listings will show this need not be the case, as there are many easily accessible services available across London. And the criticism persists that people are allowed to use medical services at Crisis without strict enough assurance that it does not duplicate their regular GP or nurse visits, which can lead to breaks in a treatment regime and confusion. Some of Crisis's guests voiced their complaints. A major point of concern arose over what was seen as the 'censorship' of guests' comments, which were regularly removed from the feedback point where messages could be written about the event. However, volunteers stated this was so they could be safely kept, to be looked over at a later date as well as to make space for more. Some people voiced dissatisfaction over the quality of the food, while others expressed disappointment at the behaviour of a minority of disruptive guests. Overall though, the majority of feedback was positive. Written comments included "Thank you for everything you have done this Christmas". One man, in his first winter as a rough sleeper simply stated, "I am very happy to be here, surrounded by so many people".
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