For most of us winter is a bit of a roller coaster, you have all the excitement in the run up to Christmas, all the presents, the partying and the time spent with your family. Then you’re hit with a couple of months of dropping temperatures, the January blues and our bank balances looking low. Now imagine what that would be like when you’re homeless. No presents, no bank balance at all and if we’re feeling the cold that then that’ll be nothing in comparison to life on the streets. It all takes its toll on their physical, emotional and mental health. As the BBC reported in November there are now 320,000 people recorded as homeless in Britain with London having the highest rate of homelessness, but rather than despair at the growing numbers we can all help in some way, Londoners after all need to look out for each other.
Download The StreetLink App
Sometimes it can be hard to know what to do when you see someone sleeping rough, especially if it’s night after night, the temperature is dropping and you don’t know where to direct them for shelter. If you download StreetLink you can then then let them know about someone sleeping on the streets and a member from a local outreach service or local authority will then be able to find them and give them the support, they need.
Take Part In The Homeless Initiative
Set up a few years ago, The Homelessness Initiative is a charity that puts together bags of much needed items such as waterproof ponchos, thermal mats, microfibre cloths and handwarmers and then hands them out on the streets of London. For as little as £7.50 you can buy socks for ten people or £45 will give 100 people wet wipes.
Volunteer At Crisis At Christmas In London
If you’ve got time to spare this Christmas, then rather than watch Love Actually on repeat or argue with your siblings (because we all revert back to children as soon as we get back to our parents’ house) then why not volunteer with Crisis at Christmas. There are plenty of roles to fill whether you’re up for cooking, serving meals, using your skills as a hairdresser or health professional or just having a chat and playing games with the guests. Get involved and help make someone’s Christmas.
Join City Harvest
If you’re in the food industry then check out City Harvest who are not only feeding the hungry but also tackling our problem of food waste. They collect surplus food from restaurants, grocers, wholesalers, hotels and caterers and redistribute to 240 organisations. To date they have rescued 1,236 tonnes of surplus food which is the equivalent of £3.7 million of free food or 3 million meals for the hungry.
Help Out Shelter From The Storm
Shelter from the Storm is a free homeless shelter in Islington which relies solely on donations. Open all year round they provide a warm bed, breakfast, a hot evening meal, showers, laundry, counselling, a legal clinic and English lessons for those who need it to their guests. They are currently building a brand new 38 bed purpose built homeless shelter for the people of London. Help out by donating your money or your time as they rely on volunteers to run the shelter.
As Liam Geraghty at The Big Issue writes ‘Homelessness puts an enormous strain on mental health with long hours of loneliness isolation and sleep deprivation… some simple talk or even just asking a personal question can make all the difference.’ So next time you buy The Big Issue, if you can, why not stop and have a chat or next time you buy someone a hot drink then ask how they are. After all we’re all human and London can be the loneliness of places even when you’re not homeless so just imagine what it’s like when you have no support network.
Get Involved With The Pavement Magazine
The Pavement Magazine works to keep the homeless community informed about the services and issues affecting them including where to go to get food and laundry done as well as providing information about where to get legal and medical support and a whole host of other services. If you’re a journalist with time to spare then they need help writing and researching articles or get involved by donating or taking part in a fundraising event, details of which can be found on their Facebook page.
Donate Your Coat
Rather than selling your coat on eBay then look out for coat donation schemes, such as Calling London and Wrap Up London who have drop off points around London where you can leave your coats. It doesn’t matter what size or what it’s like it just needs to be warm, then the schemes will hand them out to those in need. Many of the schemes have finished for the year but will reopen next November so bookmark the pages and keep an eye out.