No matter where you go in the UK, homelessness is apparent. Experts warn it is an issue that’s on the rise, with recent government statistics reporting that 3,569 people are sleeping rough on any one night in England. This is a significant rise of 30% from 2014-15, and double the amount reported in 2010.
In 2015, Liverpool was identified as the best performing city in dealing with homelessness, along with Leicester. The city offers remarkable organisations, charities and individuals who provide help to those who find themselves in the extremely unfortunate position of not having a place to live. Liverpool Council also recently presented 10 empty houses to a social enterprise to help homelessness.
Becoming homeless can sometimes be down to a number of factors, such as a family breakdown, mental health problems, escaping a violent relationship, drug dependency and financial difficulties.
There are a number of Liverpool based charities and organisations who do a tremendous amount for the homeless, including The Whitechapel Centre, Missionaries of Charity (Liverpool) and The Basement, to name a few. However, there are things you can do to support those sleeping rough on the city’s streets.
Fundraising for local or national homeless charities is a fantastic way to help. You can run a marathon, bungee jump, have a cake sale or hold an auction – whatever the way, you can help to raise money for a charity of your choice.
Volunteering at your local homeless shelter is a fantastic way of giving back to the community, and you really can make a difference to those organisations that rely so heavily on volunteers.
3. Donate Food
If you see someone homeless, an alternative to giving spare change is offering to buy them a hot meal and a drink. You can also make food donations to a Trussell Trust food bank.
4. Donate Underwear and Socks
Many charities that accept clothing donations often struggle for fresh underwear and socks, which are essential items to homeless people, as they can often go months without a change of underwear. Buying a couple of fresh socks and boxers / bras etc. can make the world of difference.
5. Donate Toiletries
Again, this is something that people don’t usually think of but can be really important. For the homeless, showering and washing is a task that isn’t readily available, so providing some instant washing products that can help to keep someone clean and hygienic is vitally important.
6. Talk to Them
Being homeless can be agonizingly lonely, particularly when you’re made to feel invisible by the public. Spending time with someone you regularly walk past or simply speaking to someone can make a significant difference to a homeless person’s life. So, the next time you walk past a person sleeping rough on the street, maybe take a moment out of your day to say hello or even learn their story.
7. Donate Bedding
Sleeping rough is possibly the hardest thing to go through, but being without a decent sleeping bag or blanket can make it a million times worse. Sleeping rough can result in illnesses, so giving someone a warm sleeping bag or just something to rest their head on can make a very bad situation a little more bearable.
8. Become a Peer Mentor
You can become a peer mentor if you’ve overcome difficulties in your life, including homelessness, substance abuse or mental health issues. You can relate to those who are sleeping rough and offer comfort, support and advice. Please call the Whitechapel centre for more information.
9. Give a List of Shelters
Knowing where to find advice can be tricky, particularly if you have no form of research or communication device. Listing services and their addresses can ensure someone receives help and advice from a professional, so print it on a piece of paper and, even if they don’t use it straight away, they can share it with others – or just keep it just in case they ever feel the need to use it. A homeless person can receive support at various shelters across Liverpool, including The Whitechapel Centre, The Basement, Shelter Merseyside and The Missionaries of Charity.
10. March with the Homeless
There are a number of organised marches that aim to raise awareness for homelessness in Liverpool and across the wider country. In March 2016, 80 people turned out to participate in a ‘March with the Homeless’ procession, which was held in the memory of a homeless man named Simon, who recently passed away after sleeping rough on the city streets. The event provided an ideal opportunity to remember Simon, whilst supporting other homeless men, women and children.
11. Take Part in Sleep Outs
The Whitechapel Centre often has sponsored sleep outs either in the likes of St George’s garden or the cathedral. Not only will you make a donation to a good cause, but you’re putting yourself in the shoes of the homeless and experiencing what it feels like to sleep rough, which will boost your understanding about what it’s like to live on the streets.
12. Buy from The Whitechapel Centre
The Whitechapel Centre recently opened a shop on Allerton Road, where all donated clothes that are not suitable for the homeless people are sold. It’s a great shop where all proceeds go towards the charity, who do such superb work supporting homeless people across Liverpool.
13. No Second Night Out
No Second Night Out is a nationwide campaign by The Ministerial Working Group on Homelessness, which works in conjunction with a number of governmental departments. The Whitechapel Centre are backing this campaign, so call the dedicated number 0300 123 2041 if you see someone sleeping rough – and they will do they rest.
14. Donate Clothing
Many who sleep rough don’t have a lot of possessions, particularly clothes – so donating clothing, particularly men’s clothing, is much needed. Warm coats, jackets and jumpers, jeans and decent shoes are always required.
15. Hand Out Dog Food
A number of homeless people have dogs for companionship, but many often forget the dogs are homeless, too. Dog food can be expensive – and a homeless person may often have to choose between feeding their dog or themselves. By donating dog food, either canned or dry, you can ensure that both a homeless person and their pet can eat that night. Don’t forget, dogs also need to stay hydrated, so water donations are bound to be welcome.
16. Give Sanitary Products to Women
Sanitary products are an essential for women – which is why homeless women are bound to appreciate the items. So, be sure to include a pack or two when you make a donation either directly to a person living on the streets or to a charitable organisation.
17. Buy the Big Issue
The Big Issue Foundation is a UK charity for people who are homeless. The foundation provides rough sleepers with an opportunity to earn their own money through selling The Big Issue paper. Every time you buy the Big Issue, you’re helping an individual and the wider Big Issue Foundation.
18. Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen
Soup kitchens provide a much needed hot meal and social interaction for homeless people. It can often be the only meal they eat all day and these organisations rely on volunteers – so you can guarantee your donated time will be much appreciated.
19. Sign Petitions Which Affect the Homeless
There are a large number of petitions that are created everyday with the welfare of homeless people in mind. By signing and sharing these petitions with your friends, you’re helping voices to be heard, which will hopefully implement change.
20. Remember Everyone Can Be Homeless
Homelessness is a problem that could affect anyone at any point in their life. It could be redundancy, breakdown of relationship or debt, factors which no-one is immune to. Remembering this and having compassion can make the world of difference in how you treat someone who is homeless.
21. Gift Cards for Restaurants
If you don’t have any change on you or you want to donate food, giving a preloaded gift card to someone who is homeless is a good way to ensure they’ll eat. This can be anything from £5 to £20, whatever you wish to donate. It may be worth asking if the restaurant allows homeless people to eat inside. If not, ensure they provide take-out.
22. Don’t Ignore Them
This is the easiest thing in the world. If someone asks you for some spare change or asks if you want a copy of the Big Issue, don’t blank them. If you don’t want to give any change or don’t have any, verbally communicate with them. Being ignored is something that homeless people experience on a daily basis, so give them respect with a simple reply.
23. Pass on a Haircut
If you’re getting your haircut, ask a hairdresser/barber if they’ll cut a homeless person’s hair if you pay. If the barber agrees, take the voucher and give it to someone who is sleeping rough.
24. Keep an Eye Out
If you regularly see someone who is homeless, perhaps you pass them everyday, make a note of when they’re not there or if their health seems to be deteriorating. This can be vitally important if someone is ill or is having further issues – you can then alert the right people.
25. Give Spare Change
This is something that is often discussed but ultimately it’s up to you. If you want to give someone a couple of quid, that’s your choice and can help someone to make it through another day.
26. Hand Out Dog Bedding
Many homeless people have had their dogs with them since before they were homeless. They are their best friends and dogs can feel the cold, too. Buying a dog bed or special blanket can help keep a dog warm when it’s cold, whilst protecting them from illness.
27. Donate to Charity
Charitable donations can have a significant impact in the homeless community. You can opt to make a one-off donation or can agree to a recurring amount that comes out of your bank account every week or month. You can make a donation to either a local or national homeless charity, as each do incredible work to support people who are sleeping rough.
While some of the above tips may only be applicable to Liverpool, many others can be applied to the UK and the rest of the world. Homelessness can happen to anyone, and it only takes a few moments of your time to help someone who needs it the most.
Liverpool is the best performing city dealing with homelessness and, with your help, we as a city can continue to provide support to those who are currently living on the streets.