What You Can Do If You Come Across Someone Homeless This Winter
130,000 children are expected to be homeless this winter.
Georgia* found herself homeless after her mum’s mental health condition deteriorated and made staying at home too dangerous. With no other family members or friends to turn to, she found her first winter away from home on her own in an unfurnished flat with not even a microwave to make a hot meal.
And while Georgia’s now working as an HR apprentice thanks to support from her keyworker and Centrepoint in Manchester, it’s worth remembering that for the 307,000 people currently thought to be homeless in the UK, the holidays can pose an extremely tough and often lonely reality.
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With child homelessness also at an all time high according to new research conducted by Shelter, this means that one in 11 children are currently thought to be homeless. Around 130,000 children were xpected to wake up homeless over Christmas and as it stands, this figure doesn’t necessarily even tell the full story about the extent of the issue of homelessness in the UK, as there’s no accurate way to account for those who are ‘hidden homeless’ – that is people with nowhere permanent to live and who are currently couch surfing.
While there are plenty of things that need to be done on a large-scale in order to address this issue, youth homelessness charity Centrepoint UK have some practical advice for what you personally can do if you come across a young homeless person this winter.
1. Contact Streetlink
If you see someone sleeping rough on the streets, one of the best things you can do is report them to your local authority, because if they are aware of the person, action can be taken to help address their situation.
Doing this is extremely easy thanks to an app called Streetlink, which you will find on all major app providers. You’ll just need to give a detailed description of their appearance and exactly were you saw them to help the team have the best chance of finding the individual in need of help.
If you aren’t into apps, you can also report directly over the phone in the UK if you call the 24hr helpline on 0300 5000914. Get your phone out and save it in your contacts right now – that way you’ll always have it to hand.
2. Refer young people at risk to Centrepoint UK
There’s a stereotype of someone being homeless as being someone sleeping rough on the streets, but that’s not always the case. Actually many young people don’t even realise they are homeless, and often think their situation ‘isn’t that bad’ because it doesn’t quite live up to this picture.
The reality is that sofa-surfing is incredibly common, with around 68% of homeless young people actually temporarily staying with friends or extended family opposed to sleeping rough.
So, if you know a young person aged 16-25 in this type of situation in England or similarly someone who might be at risk at becoming homeless in this way, you can refer them to the Freephone Centrepoint Helpline on 0808 800 0661. The line is open Monday to Friday from 9am – 5pm and can give them advice, support and help to find somewhere more permanent to live.
3. If it’s safe, ask them if they are ok
Deciding whether to give someone money or food is a personal one. However, a small act of kindness can make a big difference: even if you have nothing else to give, a friendly face or acknowledgment will always be more welcome than ignoring people and their situation.
Asking someone if they are ok if it feels safe to do so is worth considering and similarly, if you feel someone’s health is at immediate risk, you should always ring the emergency services, who will be able to help them.
4. Consider making a donation
Whether it’s giving your time or some money, Centrepoint is urging people to consider donating this winter. Just £18 could give a young homeless person a warm, safe room, a hot meal and support in rebuilding their life.
More info here: centrepoint.org.uk/donate
*Names have been changed.