As temperatures drop and winter truly sets in, it becomes particularly difficult and dangerous to be homeless, especially if you are rough sleeping.
It’s likely that you will pass people living on the streets in London, especially in light of rises in rough sleeping figures in 2022.
It’s important to remember that while we may feel helpless in these situations, there are actions we can take, and in the winter it is even more important that we do.
If it is an emergency, act:
First, if the person needs urgent medical attention, is in immediate danger or you believe they are under 18 years of age, call 999. If that is not the case, consider the following:
StreetLink helps the public to connect people sleeping rough with local support services. You can use their website or app to send an alert if you see someone sleeping rough. An outreach team will then visit the person at the location you have identified and link them to services providing short- and long-term accommodation, like ours.
Offer a warm drink or clothing:
Nobody should have to stay on the streets. But if you see someone who is, and there is no immediate support available, why not buy them a hot drink or offer extra clothes like hats, scarves or blankets. There are lots of initiatives around London that coordinate the donation of clothes, but you can also do it yourself.
Know your stuff:
Information can go a long way. Just knowing a little bit about what support people are entitled to and what is nearby can really help.
You can learn some more about people’s rights here. You could also look up what emergency shelters are available in your area of London. There will almost certainly be some, and many are organised by local church or faith-based groups, operating in a different community space each night on a rotating basis. Among other places, the StreetLink website is a good place to find relevant organisations and projects nearby.
Shelters often don’t charge, and offer basic accommodation in communal sleeping areas, as well as breakfast and an evening meal. Especially in winter this can make a big difference.
Spread the word!
The more that people know how they can help, the more chance there is that people rough sleeping will get the support they need. We can all help by talking to our friends and family about this issue. If they know what they can do, and pass that onto others in turn, we can start challenging the idea that this challenge is too big for us to fix.