Helping those less fortunate than ourselves is supposed to be what Christmas is about. Colin MacDonald would admit that he’s been lucky. He’s never been homeless. But hasn’t stopped him doing something about it.
Thanks to the generosity of his employer, and his realisation that he was in a position to help, he was absolutely at the right place at the right time to offer homeless people a Christmas they probably couldn’t have imagined.
Moffat Manor Holiday Park near Beattock in Dumfries and Galloway is an otherwise busy lochside retreat, but realising that they had free space during the festive period, they decided to offer it to those who had no home. A place they could stay where they were asked for nothing in return.
Colin saw it simply as space that could be utilised for those on the streets. “I come from a background of working in the voluntary sector. I had a couple of internships at Volunteer Scotland and Deaf Blind Scotland. This opened my eyes to the extent of the day-to-day realities. It opens your eyes to those realities and the feeling that you can’t do much, but you want to do something.”
That something was offering up vans for the week from December 20-27, and he quickly started calling up the local council, local homeless organisations, foodbanks and churches to fill the spaces. “Many of the vans were lying open over Christmas, so rather than them lying there dormant, better to offer five of our vans here to accommodate 15-20 people.”
Colin’s almost managed to fill the vans, but there are still a few spaces he’d desperately like to fill. Two cancellations have occurred, because of issues outwith their control.
He explains: “One was a family who had an immigration interview and the other guy was a single individual, but he worked on a zero hours contract and his employer simply told him that if he doesn’t make himself available for the week of work [over Christmas] then he’ll be dismissed.”
From their branch in Dumfries, Shelter Scotland have been instrumental in spreading the word locally. Sue Roberts, service manager, said: “Homelessness is stressful at any time of year, but especially at Christmas – so this free caravan holiday has given three of our homeless service users the opportunity to get a much needed break from that stress. We thank Moffat Manor Caravan Park for their kindness and generosity.”
Evening meals for the week are being provided by Moffat Manor, and local food banks have also stepped in to serve everything else required.
While the rest of us are enjoying our Christmas dinner, it’s comforting to know that others in need are being looked after by people like Colin MacDonald.
He says: “I’m a believer that if people could change it tomorrow, they’d want to change the way the economy and society is operated. We need to be the change that we want to see [in society] and anything positive, with regards to people in need, I’ll try to do.”
To contact Colin about the remaining spaces, email him on firstname.lastname@example.org