Black Santa hits the streets of Belfast this morning as the annual charity sit-out at St Anne’s Cathedral gets under way.
Dean Houston McKelvey (pictured), who has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds over the past nine years, said he had been taken aback this year at the increase in the number of charities seeking support.
“These have increased by 50% on last year, with almost 300 charities looking for help,” he said.
“These are difficult times in which to be raising funds, and while Northern Ireland has not been as badly hit as some other parts of the UK, the credit crunch has left its mark here.”
The Dean said that he was optimistic about the response to this year's sit-out.
“This is not based on fantasy, but on first-hand experience. We know that the people of our community are generous, even in times which are tough personally.”
This year's donations will go to a wide range of charities, including Christian Aid.
Black Santa and his team of helpers will be on the street in front of St Anne's until Christmas Eve (excluding Sunday, December 20) from 9am to 5pm up to Christmas Eve.