It is likely that if you live in London you will see people who are homeless. We can often feel powerless to help in these situations, but there are things that you can do.
First, if the person needs urgent medical attention 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.
Being on the streets can be extremely lonely and isolating. While it wont fix the problem, saying hello and having a conversation with someone can make a big difference and provide a meaningful boost.
Know the facts
It can help to know what support homeless people are entitled to – there is very often something.
Homelessness laws have changed in recent years, and councils can no longer turn homeless people away. Instead, they must help if someone is legally homeless (find out if that applies on the gov.uk website) or due to become so in the next 8 weeks.
Permanent UK residents will usually qualify for some form of assistance. If not, their immigration status may be the issue. For more information, check Shelter’s guide on housing rights.
Government support takes different forms including advice, emergency housing, or help to stay in the home someone is currently in. This may depend on whether someone is priority need, which you can find out more about on the Citizen’s Advice website.
Find out who else could help
If you want to know what support services are available in your local area, you can use the StreetLink website to find relevant organisations and projects nearby.
Help in Winter
A range of cold weather shelters operate in London each year. Many are organised by local church or faith-based groups, and operate in a different community space each night on a rotating basis. Details of the venue for each night are given when someone is offered a place.
The shelters usually don’t charge, and offer basic accommodation in communal sleeping areas, as well as breakfast and an evening meal. People usually get a place through a referral, which is often coordinated by a local organisation who may take referrals directly from individuals or from any agency. Find out about more by searching for winter shelters in your area.
Support organisations helping people impacted by homelessness
Ultimately we believe that the best way to make a lasting change to the people that you see is to donate to a charity like us. This enables us to provide the support that people need to ensure that they don’t return to the streets. In the long term, it will mean that we can end homelessness for good.