“Have yourself a very merry Christmas”. Michael Buble’s invitation has been ringing out over our airwaves for the past four weeks. But what's the true cost of us all pursuing our own very merry Christmases?

The financial cost is eye-watering for sure. The average family is estimated to have spent anywhere between £1000- £2500 over the festive period. But what of the non-obvious, non-financial costs? At this time of year many find themselves excluded from the idealised Christmas experience, in particular, the homeless.

Many charities work hard to fill this gap. One of these is Faith in Action, a local drop-in for homeless and vulnerable people, based in Merton, but working with people from the surrounding boroughs. On 19th December 2018, they hosted Christmas lunch, which 93 service users attended.

Many members of the public offer their time at Christmas as a one-off but, ironically, does the focus on giving at Christmas actually take away from the awareness of the ongoing need to support such people? As Caroline Ewart, who works for Faith in Action, puts it: “Would you find it harder to be homeless on 25th December than 25th January or 25th February?” Faith in Action works hard to provide service users with hot meals, showers and assistance with finding jobs and needs volunteers to help with this all year around.

Caroline also encourages “lobbying and writing to your MP to challenge some of the policies that have brought about this rise in homelessness”. Regular payments to homeless charities such as SPEAR or Kingston Churches’ Action on Homelessness are another way to tackle an issue, at a local level, which doesn't just come and go with Christmas.