Last Autumn, the Government released its fifth annual report with official statistics on rough sleeping counts. It estimated that there were 2,744 people sleeping rough on the streets of England alone. The figure saw an increase of 14% from 2013 and this year that figure is expected to rise again.
With the vast majority of homeless people out of sight either in squats or hidden down alley ways, the true figure is likely to be far higher. Although it is near impossible to accurately estimate how many people are sleeping rough and homeless across England, a five year study conducted by The Homelessness Monitor indicates that one in ten adults have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives.
With winter on its way and with no warm clothes, no bed or even shelter, homeless people are at higher risk of serious illness or sadly in many cases, death. As homelessness is often an all too invisible problem to the public, it is not regarded as a priority for decision makers.
On the 10th October, a number of organisations across England slept on the streets overnight to mark World Homeless Day. With such a increase in homeless numbers, their efforts were made to highlight the plight of homeless people and of course, raise money for homeless charities across the country.
With the number of homeless people on the rise, the need for action is higher than ever. Although this isn’t a problem that can be resolved over-night, there are number of simple ways in which the public can pull together and help homeless people live and sleep better this winter.
Be More Aware
As already mentioned, homeless people can be almost invisible to the public, but as figures show they are there. There are homeless shelters all across the country, but many people will not be aware of just how close they are to one. These shelters are almost always of full capacity, so volunteers are often needed. By heading down to a local shelter or drop in centre and offering a helping hand in anyway possible; cooking, cleaning or simply offering support can make a huge difference to the life of a homeless person.
Many people think that a donation must always be in money form, but that really isn’t the case. There are a number of different ways in which people can offer a donation that will help and support the homeless.
Of course, this is the number one way that people often donate to support charities. What many don’t know is what their donation actually does. One of the UK’s biggest housing and homelessness charities, Shelter, can use a donation of as little as £25 to provide a helpline advisor for at least 7 people. £150 can pay for an adviser to issue court proceeding and stop a family being evicted from their home. Whether it’s for support or prevention, no amount of donation is too small.
According to reports, the UK chucks away more than a million tonnes of clothing each year and an an estimated 30% of clothes in the average wardrobe have never been worn. Charities and recycling companies now encourage consumers to rethink this and offer schemes such as clothes banks, collection bags and some clothing stores will now take old clothes for recycling. These are great ways to reduce waste, but more importantly it allows charities to offer clothes to those who need them most. In the winter months particularly, clothes donations are extremely important to help prevent those on the streets becoming seriously ill.
For many homeless people, not knowing when they will eat a proper meal again is an everyday struggle. Yet families across the UK are throwing away a significant 15 million tonnes of food away each year; whether its chucking out left overs from making too much or clearing out cupboards to make space. With so many people starving on the streets, its hard to believe so much food is going to waste each year.
Shelters and food banks offer a great service to those who are unable to feed themselves. So long as the food donated is full, sealed and within its ‘use by’ date, charities and shelters are able to feed those who are below the poverty line and sleeping rough.
Although any bedding that is donated must not be used, many are still able to donate. Like clothes, there are unused bedding and sheets tucked away in cupboards, waiting to be used in many households. Night shelters are always in desperate need for bedding to help warm homeless people during the colder and winter nights.
Some shelters have certain preferences in what they accept, but this information will be available either on the shelters website or via the shelter its self.