Kindness brings Christmas cheer for Sunderland’s homeless

Manager Christine Ritchie, front, with staff and residents of Swan Lodge, who have been thrilled at the donations to the home for Christmas.
Manager Christine Ritchie, front, with staff and residents of Swan Lodge, who have been thrilled at the donations to the home for Christmas.
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Kindhearted strangers have helped bring Christmas cheer to those less fortunate on Wearside.

Staff at the Salvation Army’s Swan Lodge in High Street East in Sunderland say they have been floored by the generosity of supporters and businesses in the city.

Swan Lodge's service manager Christine Ritchie with some of the items donated.

Swan Lodge's service manager Christine Ritchie with some of the items donated.

The gifts and funds will ensure the home’s 65 residents and the 22 people it is supporting in the wider community will enjoy Christmas cheer.

Swan Lodge was formerly known as a hostel, but is now termed a lifehouse, offering accommodation for homeless men and women who have problems with alcohol and other complex needs, including mental health issues and substance misuse.

Christine Ritchie is the home’s service manager.

She said: “We’ve had people coming through the door with a fiver and people coming in with £200.

We’ve seen a lot of generosity from the people of Sunderland, they have been amazing.

Christine Ritchie

“They have donated stuff for residents and for their children and sometimes it’s been the first time they’ve been able to give their kids something at Christmas.

“At Christmas, we try to make it extra special because we know not everybody has got family who will be able to support them and for some people, it is horrendous.

“But we always say, when residents come here, they become part of a much larger family.

“We get one or two people who get quite despondent and we do try and link some families up, but sometimes that’s not always possible with some people.

“We’ve seen a lot of generosity from the people of Sunderland, they have been amazing.

“We also got some tickets to the panto and some had never been to see a panto before and we’ve had cinema tickets, which is something they wouldn’t be able to afford.”

The property, which can house up to 70 people with its ensuite rooms, is staffed around the clock and is also a training centre offering access to a host of courses.

It also teaches residents life skills and helps them become good tenants as they work towards getting their own home.