As temperatures plummet across the UK, here's what you can do if you see someone on the street...
One glance at social media this morning and you probably saw complaint after complaint about the #beastfromtheeast.
Sure, the snow brings standstill traffic, train delays and very cold fingers and toes. Whilst pretty to look at, it can be very annoying. But for people that happen to be living on the streets, it can mean something much more life-threatening.
‘Rough sleeping is harmful and dangerous, but when temperatures drop, lives are at risk,’ Petra Salva, director of outreach services at St Mungo’s, tells The Week.
Charities have issued advice on how best to help the homeless. Here’s how to do everything you can for somebody that you might find on the street (and, of course, many of these actions will still be welcome even after the snow has melted).
1. Offer a hot drink or some food
‘Many people want to be able to provide immediate help to someone they see on the streets. An offer of a hot drink or sandwich could help you find out what other type of support the person may need,’ says Shelter.
2. If you suspect that someone will be sleeping rough, alert StreetLink
Send an alert to StreetLink and they’ll be able to connect the homeless person with a local service that can help them.
If you are able to provide details about the person’s appearance and their location – there’s a description box and a map tool – you’ll help the organisation to use their time and resources more efficiently.
3. Call 999
If you fear that there’s a medical emergency or immediate danger.
4. Look for an emergency night shelter in the area
Crisis explains: ‘Due to the cold weather, emergency winter night shelters should be in operation. Visit the @HomelessLink directory which lists homelessness services in your area.’
5. If the person is young, contact CentrePoint
There is a free helpline number or, alternatively, a web chat between 12pm and 3pm, Wednesday – Friday.
6. Make a donation
A number of homelessness charities have joined together to work with the Mayor of London and local councils to provide services to help rough sleepers. You can donate here.
Sadiq Khan said: ‘We’ve already started to make progress in helping rough sleepers in London, but we must continue to take action because one person sleeping rough is always one too many.
‘I know there are millions of Londoners who want to do something to help rough sleepers get off the streets for good. That’s why I am pleased to be joining forces with our new coalition of charities dedicated to this cause, offering a single donation point for Londoners who want to give money to those who need help the most. I urge Londoners to donate and join me in helping people sleeping on our streets to connect with vital services.’