England alone has around 270,000 people registered homeless. Most people do not choose to live on the streets as it’s cold, boring and scary. Most people find themselves homeless due to family problems, mental health issues or even falling behind with rent/mortgage payments.
Homeless people do qualify for benefits. Councils and shelters can download a free SWEP toolkit to create a Severe Weather Emergency Protocol to set up accommodation for winter, for people (and dogs) sleeping rough. Also read how to help dogs of homeless people.
Greater Change goes beyond giving money: notify StreetLink of rough sleepers then local charities find them to help with benefits, services and accommodation. Billy Chip credits local shops with cost to sell chips to customers who can give them to homeless people, to redeem for food or a hot drink.
Sleep Pod is an innovative sleeping tent that only costs £30 to make, and is resistant to rain and wind, and insulated (recipients say they sleep like babies). Ideal to protect from the elements, it’s lightweight, easy to pack and carry. Sheltersuit is a wind-waterproof jacket that has an integrated sleeping and duffel bag (the lining is made from upcycled sleeping bags). The large hood shields the face from rain and streetlights, and it has a built-in mattress and pillow. There’s a flexible tent pole in the hood to keep it upright, providing shelter from the rain.
Often people who are homeless are banned from public bathrooms, hotels etc, so find it hard to get somewhere to shower, if they can’t find a hostel. But keeping clean is essential for good health and to be clean and smart, if applying for accommodation or jobs.
Pit Stop (San Francisco) provides free public bathrooms (illustrated by local artists) for homeless people, with running water, soap and hand towels. Paid attendants keep them clean, and there are also areas to dispose of dog poop and needles (for addicts). ShowerBox (London) provides free showers for rough sleepers (Australia’s Orange Sky Australia goes further by offering mobile laundry vans, a great idea for here).
Beam is a bit like crowdfunding. But rather than fund a business, you read stories of homeless people and find out what their dreams are, then help them to train them up. Former recipients now work as gardeners, beauticians, builders and support workers.
Emmaus has shops nationwide where you can donate furniture, bric-c-brac and white goods. These are restored (and PAT-tested) by homeless people who get a job, training, home and income in return. The charity was founded by Catholic French priest Abbé Pierre, who began his mission after hearing of a baby who had died on the cold Paris streets, and a young woman who froze to death, clutching her eviction notice.