Queen Mary students give ‘Mary’ Christmas to London’s rough sleepers

Catherine Santucci [inset] and mountain of gifts Queen Mary students distributed to rough sleepers o

Catherine Santucci [inset] and mountain of gifts Queen Mary students distributed to rough sleepers on the streets - Credit: QM students

Students have answered a Christmas goodwill call to help feed and clothe the homeless who are sleeping rough on the streets of London.

Students offer gifts to homeless on the streets

Students offer gifts to homeless on the streets - Credit: QM College

Fifty students set out in groups from east London’s Queen Mary University at Mile End to tour the streets during the day and even at night handing out gifts, food packs, warm clothes, blankets, hot soup and tea.

They had responded to a “Mary” Christmas appeal started by French-born student Catherine Santucci, 19, raising £1,500 from donations and events such as a bake-off contest.

“We found people sleeping rough on the pavement under arches,” she told the East London Advertiser.

Homeless on the street... one man and his dog offered Christmas gifts by a student

Homeless on the street... one man and his dog offered Christmas gifts by a student - Credit: QM College

“I saw a lot of homeless people last Christmas which got me thinking. We decided this year to do something about it and have been working since the summer to get the project going.


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“We hope this smallest of decisions made the biggest differences to people this time.”

The students want to expand the idea next year and get junior doctors from Whitechapel to join in to offer any medical help that rough sleepers may need.

Rough sleepers who received gifts from Queen Mary students

Rough sleepers who received gifts from Queen Mary students - Credit: [QM students]

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Their goodwill comes as three local authorities in Tower Hamlets, Hackney and the City begin a ‘Routes to Roots’ project, run by the Provident Row homeless charity in Spitalfields, to rescue those ending up on the streets in the East End from all over London.

Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman said: “We must remember there are vulnerable people out there in the freezing cold. The council will ensure they have somewhere warm to stay at night.”

One homeless man named Patrick has been given help after being treated at the Royal London in Whitechapel for chronic pulmonary disease. The hospital put him in touch with the ‘Routes to Roots’ project when they discovered he was homeless.

Meanwhile, praise for the students’ street tours initiative came from Queen Mary chancellor’s office.

A spokesman said: “We are proud of our students who initiated this ‘Mary’ Christmas. We encourage students to engage in their surroundings, in the East End where there is deprivation, making a difference in the community.”

The students found 200 rough sleepers and gave out food, blankets and gifts such as books.

They are running a Facebook campaign to turn their seasonal goodwill into an annual commitment.

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