London’s usually bustling Euston station was transformed into a festive dining hall as it laid on a Christmas day banquet for 200 homeless guests.
Network Rail, which runs the rail network and operates the station, joined forces with charities Streets Kitchen and St Mungo’s to host the dinner, fill the main concourse with decorations and lay the tables.
On the menu was a four-course meal including a roast dinner, smoked salmon, soup and Christmas pudding, enjoyed as the tinkling of a piano playing festive classics echoed through the concourse.
Around 45 volunteers from Network Rail gave up their Christmas Day to work alongside volunteers from St Mungo’s, which provides beds and support to more than 2,700 people in England, and Streets Kitchen, which feeds 1,000 people on the streets every week.
The first guests began arriving at 11am for food, presents and goody bags of toiletries and clothes. Additionally, 200 children from local schools made Christmas cards for all who attended the event at the station, which is usually the UK’s fifth busiest.
Dozens of tables with white tablecloths and red poinsettia plants filled the usually busy concourse, empty of travellers for one day only.
Steve Naybour, from Network Rail, came up with the idea with three colleagues. It was a privilege to provide lunch to people “who may not have expected anything a few days ago”, he said.
He added: “We’ve had 45 companies that have come to us – Pret, Leon – we’ve had really, really nice support from companies giving us thermal socks, giving us hats, giving us coats, giving us sleeping bags, jeans, we’ve got an awful lot from companies coming forward.”
Dozens of volunteers from the rail company, St Mungo’s homelessness charity and Streets Kitchen gave up their time to ensure the event ran smoothly.
Rebecca Sycamore, director of development at St Mungo’s, said: “There are loads of volunteers here today who have given up their time to make sure the guests get an amazing welcome, I think a lot of thought has been put into making people feel really special and we are really happy to be part of it and to have invited clients living in our hostels and temporary accommodation so that they really get to have a really lovely Christmas Day.”
The guests she had spoken to were “enjoying being around other people and having something to look forward to on Christmas morning”, she said.
She added: “We all can see in our communities that homelessness is increasing and that people are really struggling.
“There’s lots of issues that surround that, poor mental health, physical health, relationship breakdown, and obviously it’s a really, really difficult time.
“Being homeless is tough enough, but at Christmas I think we can all try and imagine what it would be like not to have anything and really understand why it’s so important that events like this are happening.“
High praise for the idea has been expressed on social media, along with suggestions other train stations follow suit.
Andy Gilman tweeted: “Well done for making Christmas so much better for those who really need it. Merry Christmas to you all.” Sarah Buckmaster added: “Hearing about Euston Christmas has made my year - beautiful idea! Wishing everyone there a wonderful Christmas - let’s make 2018 a year full of compassion.”