Written for The Rochdale Herald
Customers visiting a Tesco supermarket in Leytonstone, East London had a surprise when they were asked to pay £2 to step inside a “Santa’s Grotto” tucked into a corner outside the supermarket.
Their initial reactions to the grotto, haphazardly put together using a bed sheet and a milk trolley, veered from “grim” to “depressing” to “that’s where Christmas goes to die. To “”Santa’s grotty.’
Little did they know that, by paying two quid, they may be helping to put the homeless man who constructed the grotto forward to a competition called “I am a Vagrant, Get Me Out of Here!?”
Co-sponsored by Tesco and ITV, it will follow the lives and fortunes of the homeless people who make it through to the next round where they will be asked to start up a business venture from their make shift shelters.
As part of what is playfully known as the “Shelter Games”, grottos will be erected in Tesco branches across the UK.
Customers in different areas will in effect be voting for their favourite Grotto by paying the two quid.
Eventual prizes include a week at a B & B of the winner’s choice, new sleeping bags and points on the Housing Waiting list.
Although Shelter have roundly condemned this show as exploitative and dismissive of the terrible plight of thousands of homeless people in the UK, a Tory spokesperson has suggested this competition demonstrates how many homeless people could benefit from this type of co-operative partnership with local businesses. “This is exactly the type of entrepreneurial drive that a post Brexit landscape will seek to encourage”
“To be honest I thought it was a disgrace to begin with” said Neil, a Tesco customer. “Then when we found out, I phoned all me mates. Well it’s a good cause innit? And it’s Christmas!”
Please visit Shelter and make a donation this Christmas.