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The Great Sock Appeal 2020 launches today on Giving Tuesday (1st December). More images available below.
The Great Sock Appeal 2020 launches today on Giving Tuesday (1st December). More images available below.

Press release -

Great Sock Appeal Needs YOU This Christmas

As Covid-19 deepens the poverty crisis, Govia Thameslink Railway partners with local charities across its network once again to support homeless people over the winter season and break stigma associated with homelessness.

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), the UK’s largest rail network, will join forces once again with a variety of its regional charity partners this Christmas, to provide support for the homeless as the winter frost takes hold and the Covid-19 pandemic continues to heighten the homelessness crisis in the UK.

The Great Sock Appeal launches today, in time for Giving Tuesday, across the nation in a bid to support those that need it the most. Spearheaded by GTR, the collection is returning for a second year after the successful 2019 launch that saw 4,172 pairs of socks donated by customers and colleagues to seven different partnerships across the GTR network.

This year, the campaign is particularly poignant for GTR. One of the operator’s colleagues is speaking out for the first time about his experience of being homeless, with the hope of breaking the stigma associated with homelessness and to encourage more people across the country to get behind the campaign, donate and support their local community during this truly testing time.

Speaking publicly for the first time to tell his inspirational story, Allen Howe, who is now a Senior Contracts Manager at Govia Thameslink Railway, working across the Southern, Thameslink, Great Northern and Gatwick Express networks, says, “I know all too well the hardship and danger facing homeless people this winter, having spent many months on the streets myself after suffering abuse as a child and being forced out by my stepmother soon after my 16th birthday.

“Although I could’ve easily just given up, I knew I had to keep on pushing to try and get myself out of the situation. I went on to spend 14 and a half years working for the local council developing initiatives to support the homeless, as well as later working for the NHS before moving to GTR. I have turned my life around and now have two daughters that I absolutely adore. Don’t be too proud to ask for help – there are ways to get you out of whatever situation you may be facing.”

GTR is again rallying its customers and employees to join forces and support those most in need ahead of the dreaded winter frosts. In true 2020 fashion, this year’s collection will move to a virtual format, in recognition of the reduced number of passengers currently travelling due to the pandemic. Instead of physical donations hubs, GTR is asking customers and staff to donate via its fundraising page, and has set its sights on matching last year’s donations to raise £8,344 which equates to 4,172 pairs of socks, with any additional donations to be split equally between the participating partners. The appeal will launch on Tuesday 1st December and end on Friday 11th December.

Often overlooked as an unimportant item, for those sleeping rough a pair of socks is essential for keeping feet warm and dry. Without them there is great risk of blisters, fungal infections and even trench foot. This basic item of clothing helps to keep feet healthy, maintain good circulation and even manage diabetes.

Allen continues: “There’s a huge stigma around being homeless. People often think it’s related to drugs or alcohol – or that you’ve done something to get yourself there. The average person doesn’t realise that if you miss just three mortgage payments, you too could find yourself on the streets. There were many times I felt like giving up, but if you do then you’ll never experience the positive side of life.”

Steve White, Chief Operating Officer at GTR said: “Through our work last year with our regional charity partners we’ve learnt just how much difference it makes to provide a new pair of socks and keep feet warm and dry. This year charitable donations are more important than ever before as we see our homelessness crisis worsen due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Christmas is a time for giving, and all it takes is one pair of socks, less than the price of a coffee, to improve the life of a homeless person this winter. We want to thank our customers, colleagues and local communities for their wonderful support for those in need.”

  • To find out about this year’s Great Sock Appeal and donate to those in need, please visit
  • To read more about Allen's story, click here
  • To read why Thameslink station manager, Joe Healy, is so passionate about support the Great Sock Appeal, click here

- ends - 

Notes to editors

Participating charities and stations:

  • Bedford – NOAH Enterprise
  • Luton – NOAH Enterprise
  • St Albans – Centre 33
  • Stevenage – Helping Herts Homeless
  • Royston - Helping Herts Homeless
  • Blackfriars – The Connection at St Martins
  • East Croydon - Spire
  • Brighton – Brighton Housing Trust

NOAH Enterprise

Luton based NOAH Enterprise, runs a welfare centre all year round and provides hot meals to people who have fallen on hard times. In the last year, NOAH has received 435 new referrals, provided 16,273 lunches, 6,111 breakfasts and 7.472 soups. Find out more at

Centre 33

Centre 33 is a drop-in centre for anyone in the St Albans area who is homeless or otherwise socially or materially deprived. It provides a warm welcome, hot meals and drinks, shower facilities, some second-hand clothes and sleeping bags. Find out more at

Helping Herts Homeless

Working with other agencies, it aims to support the provision of emergency accommodation and other support services to anyone in Hertfordshire who has become homeless or is at risk of homelessness. Find out more at

The Connection at St Martin’s

The connection is central London’s homelessness charity and helps thousands of people each year to recover from the trauma of homelessness – providing around the clock emergency relief and long-term support leading to housing, work and independence. Find out more at


Spires is an innovative and forward thinking charity that aims to offer support to those who are in a state of need across South London. The Spires Centre has been working with homeless and disadvantaged people from Merton, Wandsworth and Lambeth for 30 years. Their primary aim is to help people move from a life on the streets to a viable, independent life with sustainable work. Find out more at

Brighton Housing Trust

Brighton Housing Trust (BHT) is a local charity supporting homeless people across Sussex. Over the last five decades they have helped thousands of people to secure safe accommodation, overcome barriers to work and learning and address issues such as addiction, poverty and mental health. Find out more at



Govia Thameslink Railway

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) operates Thameslink, Great Northern, Southern and Gatwick Express services as follows:

  • Thameslink – cross-London services between Bedford/Peterborough/Cambridge and Brighton/Horsham/Littlehampton/East Grinstead, and between Luton/St Albans and Sutton/Wimbledon/Rainham; plus services between London and Sevenoaks
  • Great Northern – services between London and Welwyn, Hertford, Peterborough, Cambridge and King’s Lynn
  • Southern – services between London and the Sussex coast (Brighton, Worthing, Eastbourne, Bognor Regis, Hastings) and parts of Surrey, Kent and Hampshire (Ashford International, Southampton, Portsmouth)
  • Gatwick Express – fast, non-stop direct services between Gatwick Airport and London Victoria

Govia Thameslink Railway
United Kingdom