A CHARITY that helps the homeless in Southampton is gearing up for fresh challenges following the success of its 30th anniversary year.

The Society of St James provided more housing and support this year than ever before.

But the hard working staff know there are still many more homeless people who need help.

Chair of the trustees Gill Tunney said: "The society has to keep moving forwards as it has over the last 12 months, to ensure we continue reaching out to those in greatest need."

Last year the charity:

Served more than 18,000 cups of soup at their kitchen in St Mary's Church.

Provided about 200 people with a bed in their direct access hostel in Albert Road.

Helped 150 people out of the hostel and into more independent accommodation with continued support from St James staff.

The hostel was previously known locally as a knock-on-the-door night shelter, but these days it provides "sophisticated" services, such as advice and support as well as accommodation.

Such is the success that, sadly, many people had to be turned away, the annual report says.

Meanwhile, fundraiser and development assistant David Cates is calling on businesses to pledge donations this year instead of sending Christmas cards.

The charity worker said companies would spend up to hundreds of pounds each on Yuletide greetings to suppliers this winter.

Hundreds of Southampton residents - who have nothing all year round - would welcome the money he said.

"We're hoping that companies in Southampton will forego sending Christmas cards this year, and instead make a donation to The Society of St James," said Mr Cates.

"For the cost of just a few dozen cards, local organisations could help to ensure that less people in Southampton have to spend Christmas sleeping on the streets."

Mr Cates - who can be contacted on 023 8063 4596 - stressed businesses could make donations to any number of worthy causes as well as the Society of St James.