BIRMINGHAM: A railway station was transformed into a dining hall on Christmas Eve to allow 200 homeless people to have a festive dinner.
The free party was held at Birmingham New Street station yesterday and included a three-course banquet at a round-table area set-up in a busy part of the station.
The event was arranged by Sikh group the Midlands Langar Seva Society and supported by Network Rail.
The night, which also had a moving choral performance, saw the homeless people enjoy the food and come together with volunteers in a bid to fight loneliness and isolation at Christmas.
Randhir Singh (pictured above), chief executive of the Midland Langar Seva Society, said:
‘Midlands Langar Seva Society are out seven nights a week, not only across Birmingham but across the UK.’
Our main purpose is to serve humanity and serve hot meals to people less fortunate than ourselves, give out hats, clothes and warm clothing and give hope.
Every year around about a week before Christmas we start giving out Christmas presents and cards.
A lot of people around this time of year start missing their families, they experience depression and the suicide rate is quite high as well.
Tonight we are putting on a three-course, sit down Christmas meal and giving out Christmas presents, with one of the managers of Network Rail dressing as Santa.
It’s their night and we are making it special for them.’
One of the homeless people attending the event was Louise Gall, who sat down with friends and was served food by volunteers in festive dress.
Louise, 41, said: ‘What they have done for us is amazing.
‘I live on the streets and without this I wouldn’t have had a Christmas meal, the only way I could have had a hot meal would be by begging on the streets.
‘I spent last night sleeping outside the station where the bikes are stored, it was freezing cold.
‘It’s amazing what they have done for the homeless.’
The Midland Langar Seva Society was inspired to host the event after it had noticed how many homeless people missed their families and felt isolated from society in general.
Numbers of homeless people are said to be at crisis levels by national charities and the society says it has seen this in its day-to-day work.
Randhir Singh said:
‘We are getting busier and busier. The people we see here tonight are just our service users, and we recognise 90 per cent of them.
‘Through this Christmas dinner and with the support of Network Rail, we have been able to make it a bit special for them.’
Round tables were decked out with donated food and soft drinks, including Christmas crackers.
Craig Stenning, deputy station manager, said: ‘It’s about giving back to the community.
‘As well as the meal there are some presents that have been donated by the retailers in the station.
‘We are at the heart of the community and this is about giving back to the most lonely and vulnerable people in our society.
‘For the staff here it’s worth it to see the guests having a nice time.’
Carols at the Christmas dinner were sung by a choir from the Black Country and DJ Sat of Paradigm Entertainment.
Midland Langar Seva Society society won a TSB Local Pride of Birmingham Award in April 2017 and is a non-profit organisation that aims to help the homeless and provide food to those in need.